Rethinking ‘cultural competence’ in international social work

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Cultural competence is today a prominent concept and aspiration in all aspects of international social work. In this article, I argue that the common understanding of ‘cultural competence’ from the so-called essentialist perspective is inadequate, and even risky, when working in an international context. Drawing on examples, I suggest that a more constructive and reflective view of cultural competence be adopted in order to meet the challenges of international social work in the contemporary world, and to better equip ourselves as ethical and anti-oppressive practitioners and educators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-83
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Social Work
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Critical reflection
  • cultural competence
  • international fieldwork placement
  • international social work education
  • social work education

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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