I started writing a paper, along with a colleague, on indigenous social work in early 2019. It began as an exercise to read different perspectives of indigenous social work. Slowly, the exercise accumulated many research papers from various journals. This is when we decided that we conduct a proper study to explore more on the subject by using a systematic review of the articles. We aimed at understanding the concept of indigenous social work as perceived by authors across the world. We selected four international journals from where we found 162 articles emphasizing indigenous social work. Out of these 162, only 40 articles were selected based on the criteria we set for our review. The review analysis resulted in four lines of thoughts that emerged on how indigenous social work is conceptualized across the globe. We discussed the four themes- cultural relevance and diversity, practice frameworks/ models, localisation of western concepts, and political competence. We finally completed writing the paper in 2020 amidst completing many other responsibilities.
We submitted this paper to an esteemed social work journal in January 2021- International Social Work published by Sage. As part of the peer-review process, the paper was sent to two expert reviewers. We received the comments in March 2021 and the comments were not so applauding. We were asked to make 3 major changes:
1. Research Questions: We were asked to limit the paper’s scope to answer only one research question. We had four questions that were interrelated to each other. We were to examine and understand indigenous social work as a concept written in major social work journals; explore its diverse discourses in order to recognize what are the challenges and the learnings for the discipline; point out changes required to feed the learnings to policy-making; and seek to examine the relevance of the term for low- and middle-income countries such as India where the profession has a strong base.
The reviewer felt that only the first question is concrete and it was ambitious for us to attempt to extend our paper to the next three questions. His/ her exact words on the second and third questions are, “An article that analyzes definitions and content in articles about Indigenous social work, can hardly say anything about what challenges and learning points this has contributed to the discipline? And it seems very ambitious that an article should also demonstrate conditions that can form the basis for political change?” He/ she was also critical about the significance of the fourth question.
The comments helped us to reflect on the research questions and their significance in the paper. The reviewer’s critic was right and we also felt that the sections focusing on second, third and fourth questions were disconnected from one another. However, accepting and integrating the comments would mean rewriting the major sections of the paper. The final draft took us more than a year to write and now, we had to remove some sections and rewrite some more to smoothen the flow of the paper. We decided that we remove the three questions and carry out the hard work.
2. Critical discussion of Codes: The reviewer wrote that he/ she missed a critical discussion of whether the four codes cover the term indigenous social work. The four codes refer to our four codes- ‘indigenous beliefs and values of helping’, ‘Accepting diversity’, ‘decolonization’ and ‘local concepts’. Further, the reviewer adds that the uncritical inclusion of “local concepts” as part of indigenous social work also contributes to further highlighting the lack of discussion of the very concept of “indigenous social work”. We responded that the four codes emerged from the arguments and discussions on Indigenous Social Work by the authors cited in the paper rather than just including them from our own perspectives. We also illustrated the sections where we discussed these concepts by citing the authors. In addition, we add one para supporting the idea that these concepts contributed to indigenous social work.
3. Clarity in the Argument: The second reviewer asked us to provide clarity that “Indigenization is less about bringing in Indigenous frameworks but more about culturally relevant social work when working with Indigenous peoples. This is a very important point to ensure cultural appropriation does not occur”. He/ she also asked us to read one article and see if it is useful to provide clarity. We both agreed and read the article. It resulted in adding a sentence, “for Aboriginal people, knowledge is power and it can be used both for good and evil that needs responsible usage of it. Social work profession should not control indigenous knowledge and recognize the danger of appropriating cultural practices”. Although the addition was not major, we read our article to check if it is unclear and then read the article that the reviewer recommended. It took us a few weeks to bring in the articulation of the article to ours.
Besides these three major changes, we also made small changes in the paper which sharpened the argument and articulation of our paper. We also disagreed with a few comments that would have led the paper to extend to more arguments. We could finish the revision in July 2021. We submitted!
The second round of comments from the first reviewer came in November 2021. It asked us to include the IFSW’s 2014 definition of indigenous peoples in the introduction. We after reading the definition and careful examination in relation to our argument so that there is no contrasting argument formation in our paper, added the definition and submitted it in November 2021.
We eagerly await the decision of the reviewers and the journal! The title of our paper is ‘A Review of Indigenous Social Work Around the World: Concepts, Debates, and Challenges’.
4th December 2021: Today, we received an email from the Journal Editor to
- Include two important contemporary literature (Mayaka, B., & Truell, R. (2021). Ubuntu and its potential impact on the international social work profession. International Social Work, 64(5), 649-662 and Pulla, V. R., Das, T. K., & Nikku, B. R. (2020). Indigenous or Blended Model for South Asian Social Work?. Space and Culture, India, 8(1), 40-58) in the review of literature.
- Carry out a careful edit to be more precise in language.
Working on it as we need to submit it within three weeks!
28th December 2021: We received the much-awaited email from the Editor. Our article is accepted after almost a year!! We did it! The year ended on a happy note.
Link to the published article: https://journals.sagepub.com/eprint/HEVSRS8TNUWHBPDVCVJB/full
Wishing you all a Happy New Year!