Journal Article

Rethinking Cultural Competence: What Can We Learn from Levinas?

Adital Ben-Ari and Roni Strier

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 40, issue 7, pages 2155-2167
Published in print October 2010 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online January 2010 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcp153
Rethinking Cultural Competence: What Can We Learn from Levinas?

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The purpose of this paper is to critically analyse ‘cultural competence’ as a theoretical construct and re-conceptualise it within the framework of Emanuel Levinas' theory of ‘Other’. Drawing on the work of the French philosopher (1905–95), this article discusses dominant mainstream conceptions of cultural competence through an examination of the complexity inherent in the intersection and relationship between the two value-laden concepts of ‘cultural competence’ and ‘Other’. The paper provides a theoretical overview of the concept, presents Levinas' conceptualisation of the ‘Other’, examines epistemological and ethical stances with regard to ‘Self’ and ‘Other’, and discusses the theoretical and practical implications for the social work profession.

Keywords: Cultural competence; cultural sensitivity; Other; Levinas; diversity

Journal Article.  4874 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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