In search of emancipatory social work practice in contemporary Colombia: working with the <i>despalzados</i> in Bogota

Carmen Hinestroza and Vasilios Ioakimidis

in Social work in extremis

Published by Policy Press

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9781847427182
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447303558 | DOI:
In search of emancipatory social work practice in contemporary Colombia: working with the despalzados in Bogota

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In recent years, millions of Afro-Colombians, indigenous people and peasants in Colombia have been forced off their land and moved into urban areas where they face further oppression, violence and lack of opportunities. The issue of displacement cannot be seen in isolation from broader political and social struggles in Colombia nor from the ongoing civil war that has raged for almost fifty years. This chapter explores the issue of internal displacement in Colombia through a ‘social work lens’. It argues that social work practice cannot rely on individualistic North American and Eurocentric approaches to working with oppressed groups. Building grassroots alliances and encouraging ‘conscientisation’ have been some of the main approaches of Latin American welfare work for decades, and this chapter discusses their use in the case of the despalzados (the displaced) in Colombia. The chapter suggests that Western social work could benefit from exploring the popular and emancipatory approaches that have developed in Latin America and integrating these into social work practice in the West.

Keywords: Colombia; internal displacement; despalzados; peasants; indigenous people; Afro-Colombians; social work; grassroots alliances; conscientisation; Latin America

Chapter.  5367 words. 

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