Sociology and Social Policy Seminar - Epistemic power and oppression in child protection policy and practice in Aotearoa New Zealand

Date Tuesday 16 May 2023
Time 2pm - 3pm
Where J.1.10 - University of Waikato Hamilton Campus
Presenter Eileen Joy (Ph.D.)
Contact Katrina Roen
Contact email
Admission Cost Free
Child protection social work is a complex, contested and frequently politicised practice area. In Aotearoa New Zealand, during the 2010s, the government published a series of policy documents to address the ‘problem’ of child abuse and neglect. In this seminar, Eileen will discuss findings from her thesis, which examined how recent advances in child development knowledge (neuroscience and epigenetics) were operationalised in social work policy and practice over this time.

Eileen will detail how she used intersectionality and theories of epistemic power and oppression to explore how these different advancements in knowledge were used, thereby reinforcing already dominant (and oppressive) systems. Findings suggest that knowledge use and application creates specific subject positions for children, parents, and social workers. Children are constructed as raw materials to be appropriately curated for their potential to add to the neoliberal economy; parents are responsibilised for structural inadequacies; and finally, social workers are expected to defend the capitalist state but express mixed acceptance and resistance. These positions reinforce racist, sexist, and classist consequences for those who come to the attention of child protection, particularly for those multiply oppressed.