HSU Professor Co-Authors New Book on Decolonizing Social Work

Humboldt State professor Michael Yellow Bird has co-authored a new textbook titled “Decolonizing Social Work.”

The 354-page text examines the myriad colonizing influences inherent in contemporary, mainstream Western social work education, practice, and theories, and ways in which social workers can decolonize their profession, weakening the effects of colonialism and better serving their local and global communities.

“Unfortunately, most folks—especially those privileged beneficiaries of imperialist paradigms—do not realize how devastating and far-reaching colonization can be and the extent of its negative consequences for everyone—including the rich, the poor, men, women, children, and the unborn,” Yellow Bird says. “Colonization fans the fires of global war, poverty, climate change, genocide, and the uncritical obedience of the masses, generally through force of threats of force. Whether we realize it or not, almost all people on the planet are colonized or are being primed for colonization.


“While this is not a new idea outside of social work, the message of the book is new to the profession since social work was founded under a colonizing agenda and has often, uncritically, regarded itself as a champion of the oppressed.” Yellow Bird says. “However, this is far from the truth. Social work policies, theories, and education have been guided by colonizing interests since the inception of the profession. To confront the colonization of social work the book sends an urgent call to social workers, educators, policy makers, social service administrators, and organizations to examine their roles in supporting colonization and how they might engage in decolonization projects.”

The book includes more than fifteen essays from indigenous and non-indigenous social work scholars from the United States, Japan, Jordan, Cuba, South Africa and Mexico.

Contributors examine methods of decolonization including teaching indigenous history, establishing self-esteem programs and restoring traditional parenting approaches, foods, ceremonies and rites of passage.

In the preface, Yellow Bird discusses the United Nations 2007 adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its relevance to decolonizing social work. He later discusses a novel approach to decolonization in a chapter titled “Neurodecolonization: Applying Mindfulness Research to Decolonizing Social Work.” In this chapter, he introduces how neuroscientific research on mindfulness practices can be applied in Native American communities to overcome the devastating effects of colonization and enhance well-being.

A professor in the Department of Social Work, Yellow Birds’ research focuses on Indigenous Peoples, colonialism and decolonization, mindfulness, Indigenous Peoples’ contemplative approaches, mind-body medicine and mind-brain research. “Decolonizing Social Work” is the fourth book Yellow Bird has edited and the second in a series on social work published by Ashgate Publishing.

The first book—“Indigenous Social Work Around the World”—was published in 2008 and examined the indigenization of social work and ways in which social workers can better address diversity and cross-cultural issues.

For more information, visit http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409426318.