Social Work and the More-than-human Special Interest Group

The Social Work and the More-than-human Special Interest Group (MTH SIG) brings together transnational scholars working on the ways in which the more-than-human, broadly defined, challenges human-focused social work research, education and practice. In different ways the Covid-19 pandemic, environmental emergency and human-made technologies each generate political and economic instabilities that amplify existing inequalities between humans, but also between humans and non-human life. These events and phenomena draw attention to the potential harms of the human exceptionalism embedded in modern social and political thought, and they evoke new philosophical questions that challenge state-anchored professional social work to imagine beyond the traditional scope of our research and practice.

Our guiding questions include:

  1. How are more-than-human developments affecting social work?
  2. What challenges do these developments pose to the research and practice of social work?
  3. What conceptual and methodological approaches might help social work engage with the more-than-human?

Please get in touch if you have questions, ideas for collaboration, or if you would like to be added to our SIG email list. 

SIG Co-Convenors:

Dr Tina Wilson
Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Faculty of
The University of British Columbia Canada

Dr Heather Lynch
Senior Lecturer, MSc (Social Work) Programme Lead

Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland, United Kingdom

 2023/2024 Theme: Social Work Geographies, Or, The Place/s Of Social Work

 The theme for the Social Work and the More-Than-Human Special Interest Group (SIG) for 2023-2024 is social work and place, or, social work geographies.

 Social work takes place in an array of contexts including in government offices, private homes, streets, community centres, prisons, courts, hospitals, schools, care homes, clinics, parks, virtual rooms, phonelines and many more. The importance of place to social work is evident in the longstanding prominence of the person-in-environment framework, and in an understanding of place as the immediate environment in which life occurs (Saleebey, 2004). Indeed, early social work developed in conversation with international collaboration on the city as a perceived social problem (Köngeter, 2017), and distinctions between urban/rural practice and dichotomies of inner/outer space, that is, individual characteristics versus the external social environment (Loewenstein, 1979) have had remarkable staying power. Social work scholars have fruitfully explored geographies of access to and avoidance of social services (Kissane, 2010), as well as place-based marginalization and the non-normative use of space (Taylor, 2013). These days, aging-in-place strategies are popular in wealthy countries (Lehning et al., 2017) and e-places (Samanta, 2019) are an emerging phenomenon.

 The place of social work is distinct to each encounter as place is a production of the social, material, and temporal (Massey, 2005; Thrift, 2008). Since Lefebvre (Lefebvre, 1991a, 1991b) we know that space is always political and that its politics operates at the intersection of the material and social (Amin, 2012; Amin and Thrift, 2013). Place is an event that cannot be reduced to a single representation (Lorimer, 2005; Thrift, 2008) and is always more than human. The social work literature however evinces a persistent dichotomy between social and physical place (Akesson, Burns & Hordyk, 2017), and our scholarship has yet to establish a conceptual grounding for exploring power and place (Ratliff, 2019). An exploration of social work geographies, or the places of social work, can therefore offer insights into the politics of social work events and how these are shaped by their material and organic facets as much as by human action and intent. 

Invitation to Submit an Abstract/Proposal for SIG Event, 2024 ECSWR

 With this as our organizing theme for 2023-2024, we invite scholars working on social work and place (broadly defined) to contribute to an in-person SIG event to be held at the European Conference for Social Work Research (ECSWR) in Vilnius Lithuania in mid-April, 2024. SIG events unfortunately do not include funding for presenters, so this event will be a better fit for those already planning on attending the conference, and/or who can access funds through their university.Please contact either of the SIG co-conveners, Tina Wilson ( or Heather Lynch (, by September 15th with an abstract or proposed contribution to the planned SIG event. We will gladly discuss preliminary ideas, as well as consider non-traditional contributions, and questions are always welcome. Please do circulate this invitation to your networks.

Akesson, B., Burns, V., & Hordyk, S-H. (2017). The place of place in social work: Rethinking the person-in-environment model in social work education and practice. Journal of Social Work Education, 53(3), 372-383, DOI: 10.1080/10437797.2016.1272512

Amin, A. (2012). Land of strangers. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Amin, A. & Thrift, N. (2013). Arts of the political. Durham & London: Duke University Press.

Kissane, R. J. (2010). We call it the badlands: How social-spatial geographies influence social services use. Social Service Review, 84(1), 28.

Köngeter, S. (2017). Surveilling and surveying slums. The transnational translation of the city as a social problem. In L. Good Gingrich & S. Köngeter (Eds.), Transnational social policy. Social welfare in a world on the move (pp. 21-42). London: Routledge

Lefebvre, H. (1991a). Critique of everyday life. London: Verso.

Lefebvre, H. (1991b). The production of space. London: Verso.

Lehning, A. J., Nicklett, E. J., Davitt, J., & Wiseman, H. (2017). Social work and aging in place: A scoping review of the literature. Social Work Research, 41(4), 235–246.

Loewenstein, S. F. (1979). Inner and outer space in social casework. Social Casework, 60(1), 19–29.

Lorimer, H. (2005). ‘Cultural geography: the busyness of being `more-than-representational.’ Progress in Human Geography, 29(1), pp. 83–94. Available at:

Massey, D. (2005). For space. London: Sage.

Ratliff, G. A. (2019). Social Work, place, and power: Applying heterotopian principles to the social topology of social work. Social Service Review, 93(4), 640–677.

Saleebey, D. (2004). The power of place: Another look at the environment. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, 85(1), 16.

Samanta, T. (2019). Aging in e-place: Reflections on online communities for the aged in India. Journal of Women and Aging, 1, 114–121.

Sousa, C.A., Kemp, S.P. and El-Zuhairi, M. (2019) ‘Place as a social determinant of health: Narratives of trauma and homeland among Palestinian women.’ British Journal of Social Work, 49(4), pp. 963–982. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcz049.

Taylor, S. (2013). Structural violence, oppression, and the place-based marginality of homelessness. Canadian Social Work Review, 30(2), 255–273.

Thrift, N. (2008). Non-representational theory. Abingdon: Routledge.


2022/2023 Theme: Michel Serres The Natural Contract: “What language do the things of the world speak, that we might come to an understanding with them, contractually?”

 ECSWR 2023 SIG Event presentations (note: video quality is poor)