Teaching and learning critical and anti-oppressive frameworks pose many challenges within social work as a profession invested in notions of practice, competency, helping, and benevolence. Course content that generally interrogates social work’s helping role and social workers’ identity as helpers is at times met with dismissal that it does not teach practice skills. At other times, learners paradoxically argue that material that challenges the making of the profession and their identity in fact confirms and reaffirms their professional roles. These reactions suggest that a number of actions and negotiations take place in the apparently mundane relationship between reader and text, actions that cannot solely be attributed to texts. This paper uses a Foucauldian approach to ethics to render the relationship between reader and text thinkable and problematic and to explore processes of subject formation being negotiated by readers in their contextual relationships with texts. The central argument of this paper is that by rendering the reader-text relationship thinkable, we can explore transformative and critical reading ethics that account for how power and knowledge regimes interconnect with processes of subject formation in reader-text relationships in social work.
social work education, subjectivity, Foucault, reading, poststructuralism