No One is Disposable

Abolition Pedagogy & Social Work Futures


  • Meg Pirie King's University College


This paper explores the ways in which critical reflection, a model for critical incident debrief within social work, is an act of abolition pedagogy and social work which confounds settler colonialism and carceral logics which pervade this profession as well as educational/learning environments. Theoretically grounded in reproductive justice and the abolition thinking of Angela Davis and Mariane Kaba, this paper argues that opportunities to unpack binaries and hidden assumptions through collective learning are opportunities to unpack the ways in which Foucault’s Panopticon Effect is unwittingly internalized and reproduced within ‘helping’ professions and at the micro level. In addition, an intersectional, critical autoethnographic exploration of a personal experience in a critical reflection group is interwoven throughout. I contend that the integration of these ‘selves’ serves as a reminder that use of self in its most authentic form has the potential to challenge and confound the constructed separation between personal and professional that attempts to depoliticize all realms of our lives and relegate our primary duties to that of working and consuming. As a site of potential transformation and liberation, critical reflection’s alignment with abolition stands in direct contrast to neoliberal educational structures often focused on individualism, credentials, surface learning, and brevity. Finally, critical reflection of practice, as a model of critical incident debrief, provides a site for abolition social work and pedagogy to take root in its capacity to foster an unrestrained imagination.


Beck, E., Ohmer, M., & Warner, B. (2012). Strategies for preventing neighborhood violence: Toward bringing collective efficacy into social work practice. Journal of Community Practice 20, 225–240.

Béres, L. (2016). Maintaining the ability to be unsettled and learn afresh: What philosophy contributes to our understanding of ‘reflection’ and ‘experience’. Reflective Practice, 18(2), 280–290.

Béres, L., & Fook, J. (Eds). (2020). Learning critical reflection: Experiences of the transformative learning process. Routledge.

Bergen, H., & Abji, S. (2020). Facilitating the Carceral Pipeline: Social Work’s Role in Funneling Newcomer Children From the Child Protection System to Jail and Deportation. Affilia, 35(1), 34-48.

Boggs, A., Meyerhoff, E., Mitchell, N., and Schwartz-Weinstein, Z. (2019 October 2019). Abolitionist University Studies: An Invitation. [Paper presentation]. Whose Crisis? Whose University? Abolitionist Study in and Beyond Global Higher Education: A Conference. Conference 2019, Duke University.

Boyd, J., Fast, D., & Small, W. (2016). Pathways to criminalization for street-involved youth who use illicit substances. Critical Public Health 26, 530–541. doi:10.1080/09581596.2015.1110564.

Davis, A., Barat, F., & West, C. (2016). Freedom is a constant struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the foundation of a movement. Barat, F. Ed. Haymart Books.

Deleuze G. & Guattari, F. (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press.

Dozono, T. (2022). A Curriculum and Pedagogy of Prison Abolition: Transforming the Civics Classroom Through an Abolitionist Framework. The Urban Review, 54(3), 411–427.

Fook, J., Collington, V., Ross, F., Ruch, G., & West, L. (Eds). (2016). Researching critical reflection: Multidisciplinary perspectives. Routledge.

Fook, J. & Askeland, G. A. (2007) Challenges of critical reflection: nothing ventured, nothing gained. Social Work Education, 26 (5), 520-533. DOI:10.1080/02615470601118662.

Fook, J., & Gardner, F. (2007). Practising critical reflection: A resource handbook. Open University Press

Fortier, C. & Wong, E. H-S. (2019). The settler colonialism of social work and the social work of settler colonialism. Settler Colonial Studies, 9:4, 437-456, DOI: 10.1080/2201473X.2018.1519962.

Foucault, M. (1995). Discipline and punish: the birth of the prison. Knopf Publishing.

hooks, bell. (1994). Teaching to transgress: education as the practice of freedom. Routledge.

hooks, bell. (1988). Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black. South End Press.

Kaba, M. (2021). We Do This ‘Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice. Haymarket Books.

LeMaster, B. & Mapes, M. (2020). Refusing a compulsory want for revenge, or, teaching against retributive justice with liberatory pedagogy. Communication and Critical/cultural Studies, 17(4), 401–409.

Love, B. (2019). We want to do more than survive: Abolitionist teaching and the pursuit of educational freedom. Boston. Beacon Press.

Varman, P.M., Mosley, M. P., & Christ, B. (2022). A model for abolitionist narrative medicine pedagogy. Medical Humanities, 48(3), e10–e10.

Vinsky, J., & Prevatt-Hyles, D. (2022). Anti-black racism education in human service organizations: The liberation practice international (LPI) critical reflective practice model SW 9807A – Course Outline 6 – “the LPI model”. In J. Fook (Ed.), Practicing critical reflection in social care organisations (Ch. 4). Routledge.

Whalley, E., & Hackett, C. (2017). Carceral feminisms: The abolitionist project and undoing dominant feminisms. Contemporary Justice Review 20, 456–473.

Willison, J., & O’Brien, P. (2017). A feminist call for transforming the criminal justice system. Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work 32, 37–49.

Zembylas, M. (2021). Affective Strategies of Abolition Pedagogies in Higher Education: Dismantling the Affective Governmentality of the Colonial University. Equity & Excellence in Education, 54(2), 121–135.






Undergraduate and Post graduate Student papers