Becoming a social worker under racial constraints

Special report: Racialization and public policy
A sociological inquiry on an associative sector at the border of the French nation
By Élise Lemercier, Élise Palomares

In the aftermath of the transformation of Mayotte’s legal status into a French overseas administrative département in 2011, local public policy has become increasingly institutionalized and normalized, particularly in the field of social policies, which were previously optional and residual due to colonial history. The major principles of division and hierarchies that stem from this history—race, gender, and nationality—have not disappeared. Rather, they have changed over time, following the tremendous historical evolutions the Comoro Archipelago has faced. Public policies have played a tremendous role in these changes due to the new rules they set and the resources they allocate.Focusing on the social work sector, this paper deals with logics of racialization within public policy by comparing the biographies and the standpoints of social workers, forewomen, and leaders in this non-profit sector, be they in a minoritarian or a majoritarian situation. How are these logics of racialization reproduced, experienced, appropriated, and sometimes disputed by professionals who occupy contrasted, if not antagonistic, social positions?

  • racialization
  • racism
  • ethnic borders
  • social work
  • special education
  • Mayotte
  • Overseas France
  • postcolonial
  • intersectionality
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