Dr Jessica H. Jönsson

Brief biographical statement

Dr. Jessica H. Jönsson is an associate professor and research fellow in the School of Law, Psychology and Social work at Örebro University, Sweden. She obtained her PhD at Mid-Sweden University where she taught, supervised national and international field placements, and supervised students at the postgraduate level. She has studied global social problems, sustainable social development, poverty alleviation, migration and reception of asylum seekers and refugees, and national (dis)organization of social work, including its education and practices. She teaches mainly in the areas of community work, migration and global social problems. Jessica H. Jönsson has, in her research, explored the problems of West-centrism, which has been reinforced by recent decades of globalisation of neoliberalism, for the education of social work. She has been one of the leading scholars in the establishment of a progressive educational program with a global and anti-racist profile in Sweden. Jönsson has, together with colleagues, developed social work curricula that encompasses critical, global and postcolonial perspectives. Students’ self-evaluation, and their ethical and critical awareness of international field training in realizing human rights and social justice in field practice settings, have been the focus of her recent work.

Vision statement for the IASSW

Modern education has been empowering, but it is also a means for the reproduction of postcolonial inequalities. Social work education is no exception, and it is very much influenced by socioeconomic, political and cultural power structures in Western countries. Social work education in many Western countries are highly influenced by such countries’ colonial past and postcolonial present. West-centrism is, however, not limited to Western educational centres and research circles, but has been exported to many non-Western countries. I have, together with my colleagues, explored the problems of West-centrism in social work education, which has been reinforced by recent decades of globalisation and neoliberalism. I have been one of the leading scholars in the establishment of a progressive educational program with a global and anti-racist focus in Sweden.

Such critical and radical perspectives in social work education have recently come under severe attack as a result of growing right wing racist and populistic parties’ electoral success and influence in Western universities. Such destructive developments have been reinforced by neoliberal influences in higher education and social work practice. Marketisation, privatisation and the entrenchment of New Public Management in all aspects of social work practices have led to increasing social problems, and thus a greater need for social work interventions. However, the retreat of the welfare states from their traditional roles in protecting the most destitute, even in the most developed welfare states of Nordic countries, create major challenges for current and future roles of social work, which must be the focus of research and education.

I believe that IASSW can play a central role in decolonising social work education, and in promoting critical and radical perspectives in a time where neoliberalism threatens human lives, and contributes to increasing social problems with global roots. Social work should educate and arm future social workers with adequate knowledge and skills needed for working in our global world beyond the limits of national borders.  IASSW has an important role to play in building global alliances in decolonising social work, and in addressing social injustices and structural inequalities. IASSW’s commitment to this is reflected in its recent policy documents. As a member of the board, I will work with colleagues on a global level to strengthen IASSW’s vision as reflected in its Constitution, the Global Social Work Definition, the Global Standards for Social Work Education and Training, the Global Agenda, and the Global Social Work Statement of Ethical Principles, all of which are underscored by emancipatory, postcolonial theorizing and aims.