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A Violent History of Benevolence

Interlocking Oppression in the Moral Economies of Social Working

A Violent History of Benevolence traces how standard histories of liberalism, progress, and social work are inextricable from systemic violences of colonialism, racism, disablism, cisheteropatriarchy, eugenics, and capitalism.

Author Information


Chris Chapman is an associate professor of Social Work at York University.

A.J Withers is a PhD candidate in the School of Social Work at York University, and an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.


Sheila Neysmith, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto:

"Sensitive to how history is written, Chapman and Withers pull out threads that reveal what is not included in usual histories of social work."

China Mills, Lecturer in Critical Educational Psychology, School of Education, University of Sheffield:

"The book beautifully and at times devastatingly traces the violent history of benevolence from which much current social work, and psy-expertise, has grown. This is a study of historical violence and atrocity that disrupts and makes unfamiliar continued and contemporary practices, making us look anew at how these practices enact violence, encouraging a deep ethical questioning of people’s imagined rights to intervene in others’ lives."

Donna Jeffery, School of Social Work, University of Victoria:

"Linking history to the present is very important to social work readers. Discussing rehabilitation, assimilation, and repair, A Violent History of Benevolence acts as a counter-narrative to the more simplistic, history-as-progress narrative often assigned to conversations about social work. This information is vital for students and faculty, and the social work knowledge base."

Audience: College/higher education;Professional and scholarly;