People living in marginalized situations caused by poverty, racism, colonialism and other forms of oppression experience multiple challenges in their abilities to stake a rightful place in Canadian society. Knowledge, which is an important component to how society is organized and functions, can play a key role in creating barriers to social and economic inclusion. Knowledge can produce stereotypes that fuel oppressive actions and practices. Sometimes knowledge is unspoken and ill defined. And some knowledge is given more authority and power than others, which results in the discounting or suppression of different communities’ experiences and wisdoms. Yet, individuals and communities aren’t simply passive recipients of these forms of power and discrimination; different types of knowledge, cultural resources and supports are drawn upon for resilience and resistance – the very sources of empowerment that go unnoticed and underutilized by policy makers and practitioners.
This knowledge hub offers two branches of research: (1) Immigrant employment exclusion research that examines how public discourses – in media, immigration policy and social service delivery – construct meaning around immigrant employment and “Canadian experience”; and (2) Research that studies women’s lived experience of homelessness, paying special attention to the experiences of Aboriginal women and women of colour. Both streams offer innovative engagement with unique forms of discourse analysis and art-based approaches to tease out and makes sense of how these competing or unspoken knowledges operate both as tools of oppression and as strategies for healing and resistance. These methods are also used to engage key stakeholders in responding critically to these restrictive, and at times, discriminatory and embedded constructions.
Research found in this knowledge hub investigates how forms of cultural knowledge that are embodied and shared emotionally between people can become transformational resources of empowerment for communities, individuals, and uniquely, as tools for social justice. By asking how different knowledges affirm social injustices and exclude people and whole ways of knowing, and by learning from the use of different tacit knowledges to resist, to heal from, and to mobilize against oppressions, we can broaden the reservoir of knowledge that social work can draw upon to enact social change.