Controversy analysis: contributions to the radical agenda

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)


This chapter will reconsider social work research methodologies and engage with the concept of ‘controversy’ in order to cultivate a critical understanding of the contemporary global landscape we are implicated within. In an attempt to comprehend the ever changing environment of conict, uncertainty and complexity that social workers and service users are located within, this chapter aims to embrace the persistence of ‘controversies’. It will be argued that when ‘controversies’ erupt, taken for granted assumptions are challenged, technical knowledge is disturbed and the opportunity to increase knowledge and inuence policy and practice is created. Drawing from my PhD literature review, the interdisciplinary eld of Science and Technology Studies (STS) will be utilised and ‘controversy analysis’ as a research methodology will be presented as a radical approach that can be applied in practice. The rst part of this chapter will ease into the textures of controversy and begin with an exploration of ‘conict’ that has the potential to open processes and relations that have remained closed and hidden. Attention is then focused upon Actor-Network Theory (ANT) as an approach that encourages us to ‘follow the actors’ and ‘describe what you see’ (Latour, 2005: 8) and key case studies will provide detail of these methodological ‘empirical occasions’. Finally, I draw from my PhD research with immigration controversies to demonstrate how this methodology enriches current understandings of practice and oers fresh insight in relation to service user engagement as participatory resistance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Critical Social Work
EditorsStephen A Webb
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781351264396
ISBN (Print)9781138578432
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2018

Publication series

NameRoutledge International Handbooks



  • controversy analysis
  • no recourse to public funds

Cite this

Farmer, N. (2018). Controversy analysis: contributions to the radical agenda. In S. A. Webb (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Critical Social Work (1st ed.). (Routledge International Handbooks). Routledge .