Social Work as a Colonial Knowledge Archive? A History Lab on the (Post-)Colonial Heritage of Social Work as a Model of Historiographical Teaching Research

Project duration: 01/01/2023 - 31/12/2026

Principal investigator: Dr. Dayana Lau

Project staff: Hannah Ferreira

Sabine Sander and Silke Bauer (Pestalozzi-Fröbel-Haus Berlin)
Prof. Dr. Wiebke Dierkes (Hochschule Rhein-Main)
Prof. Dr. Susanne Maurer (Philipps-Universität Marburg)
Dr. Z. Ece Kaya (Stiftungsuniversität Hildesheim)


In 1893, just shortly after the German Reich had become the third largest colonial power, the girls' and women's groups for social aid work were founded. A number of organizations and methods of professional social work emerged from this organization, most of which still exist. Many of these social work pioneers belonged to the women's movement and were also active in the colonial movement. They connected approaches to solving the so-called colonial, social and women's question and developed a colonial exaggeration of the idea of social work as "cultural work" developed by the women's movement.

These connections and their effects on present day social work will be examined more closely in this project. The colonial social work of the women's movement worked not only in the colonies as an instrument of power, but also in the metropolis. Racism and colonialism were not resisted in the international cooperation of the women's movement and social work either. Social work has been constituted as a 'white' space in which 'Eurocentric' notions of social order, education, work and family life became guiding principles.

In several teaching research projects at a social work professional school and several universities, these historical connections and their effects on the profession are being investigated together with students. In addition to gaining knowledge about the history of the profession, the project aims to provide materials and concepts for implementing a historical teaching model with relevance for the development of the profession.

Funding: Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Keywords: Colonialism, Feminism, Social Work History

Contact: dayana.lau@ avoid-unrequested-mailsash-berlin.eu