National Conference on Reconciliation, Multiculturalism,Immigration and Human Rights

Professor Jan Fook
Professor of Social Work, Deakin University, Victoria

Emerging Ethnicities as a Theoretical Framework for Social Work

What is the most relevant way to understand ethnicity and ethnic identity in the contemporary world? Drawing from personal experience as a later generation migrant in Australia trying to find a meaningful ethnic identity, the paper illustrates how both primordial and instrumental concepts of ethnicity are inadequate. It argues that the concept of emergent ethnicity best characterises the dynamic and changeable nature of ethnicity in a world of mixed types of migration, globalised economies and cultures, and challenged hierarchies and boundaries. This type of critical paradigm of ethnicity takes into account the transformative nature of ethnicity, one which incorporates differences and fragmentation, context, reflexitivity and changing constructions, as well as political ramifications. The chapter ends by developing the implications of this critical paradigm. Aboriginal ethnicity is briefly analysed as an example, pointing up policy and political implications. Several broad directions for social work practice are also developed, including the politics of identity creation, reflexivity, and the connections between personal experience and structural arrangements.

Jan Fook (B.S.W. (N.S.W.), M.S.W. (Syd.) is currently Professor of Social Work at Deakin University, on secondment from La Trobe University. She was born in Sydney, and is of third generation Australian-born Chinese descent. Her teaching and research span the areas of critical practice, critical reflection, practice research, cross-cultural practice and professional expertise. She has authored and edited 6 books, and written over 30 book chapters and articles in these areas.

Presentation Type
30 min paper

University of Technology, Sydney, 1-2 December 2000

Papers & Workshops