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Research positionality statement

In this statement, I provide a summary of my epistemological paradigmatic perspectives, i.e., the philosophical and theoretical assumptions and worldviews that guide my research and how I envision the research process. I start with my epistemological stance or stances, and then I present some of the conceptual and theoretical perspectives that also sort of make up my identity as a researcher.

Epistemology is that branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of knowledge, and how it is acquired; in the words of Crotty (1998, p. 8, italics from the original), it is essentially concerned with “how we know what we know”. Taking that into consideration, how do I know what I know? Well, concerning this particular issue of the nature of human knowledge, I can say that I strongly adhere to the principles of constructionism. Constructionism brings forward the notion that all knowledge is socially constructed (Crotty, 1998), therefore, what we know and how we come to know it is dependent on human practices and interactions and how such knowledge is developed and transmitted in a given social context (see Crotty, 1998, p. 42).

Therefore, I do not believe that there is such a thing as a truth about the world waiting to be found, instead, I believe that what we define as truth, real, or otherwise, is a product of our collective imagination and meaning-making. This approach guides how I understand and engage with social work research and how I interact with service users, providers, and research collaborators. I strive to acknowledge and explore the diverse ways in which knowledge can be constructed and I envision knowledge and research as co-constructed and co-produced.

However, constructionism alone does not account for all the epistemological and philosophical aspects of my research and how I choose to do it. Critical inquiry, also sometimes called critical perspectives or critical thinking are interpretative frameworks/lenses that shape my understanding of the world as well. As described by Crotty (1998, p. 157, my italics), “[…] [in this] type of inquiry spawned by critical spirit, researchers find themselves interrogating commonly held values and assumptions, challenging conventional social structures, and engaging in social action”. A lot of what I have done over the years in terms of research was guided by this notion of critical inquiry, especially through shedding light on systems of oppression, questioning unequal power relationships, and advocating for social justice, human rights, and equality, all which are embraced by critical perspectives (Crotty, 1998; Reimer-Kirkham et al., 2009). So far in my career, I have engaged with different theoretical and conceptual traditions within this realm of critical inquiry, including decolonial approaches to social work research and practice (e.g. da Luz Scherf, 2023a; 2022), anti-racist approaches to social work education (da Luz Scherf, 2023b), as well as eco-socialist (Silva & da Luz Scherf, 2020; da Luz Scherf & Silva, 2023), intersectionality, and anti-oppressive frameworks, among others.  

Another notion that underpins my scholarly work is that knowledge is power, i.e., not only is important to understand how we know what we know but also to question what do we do with this knowledge? Who benefits from it? Does it serve to advance social justice and equality or to reproduce injustices and inequities? In the context of academia, I have argued in the past and continue to argue for the abandonment and rejection of cultural-genocidal, and abyssal views still deeply rooted in Western thought (da Luz Scherf, 2023a), which are mechanisms that invalidate any knowledge or perspective that does not conform to the “standards of scientific inquiry” brought forward by scholars in the global North. Essentially, I believe that the only route to acknowledge and recognize a multiplicity of epistemological and paradigmatic perspectives is by calling out, questioning, and bringing down epistemological racism (Kubota, 2020), epistemological injustice, and discursive colonization (Hoagland, 2020) in academic spaces.


When I reflect on these questions, I am brought back to my childhood and upbringing in Brazil. Growing up gay and poor in a very dysfunctional household in the global South, having faced deprivations of many kinds and experienced injustices and violence of different natures, I struggled for many years to find my voice, personally and professionally. However, this deep sense of justice always guided everything I did. And, as I had no one to advocate for my needs, I learned from very early on that I would have to do it myself. These experiences have called upon me to fight for those who cannot often fight for themselves: this is my purpose in life and this is why I became a social worker. As I was personally subjected to oppression, I continue to advocate for individuals and communities that are negatively affected by oppressive policies and practices in society, this is why a lot of my work speaks to the lived experiences of marginalized, racialized, and minoritized populations.

In conclusion, my epistemological paradigmatic perspectives outlined in this statement reflect a commitment to constructionism and critical inquiry, shaping the foundation of my research identity in social work. Moreover, diverse theoretical traditions within critical inquiry, including decolonial, anti-racist, and anti-oppressive approaches underscore the breadth of my engagement in social work research and practice. I also reject epistemological racism and injustice and I believe we need to promote the acknowledgment and inclusion of diverse epistemological perspectives in and outside academia. Reflecting on my personal journey from a disadvantaged background in Brazil, I draw strength from experiences of overcoming adversity and injustice. The struggles I faced growing up underscore my unwavering commitment to advocacy and as I navigate the complex landscape of social work research, these frameworks and perspectives serve as a compass, guiding me toward a future where knowledge is a catalyst for positive change and equality.





Crotty, M. (1998). The Foundations of Social Research : Meaning and Perspective in the Research Process. SAGE Publications Ltd.


da Luz Scherf, E. (2022). Critical perspectives on social work and social policy practice with vulnerable migrants in an era of emergencies. In A. Jolly, R. Cefalo, & M. Pomati (Eds.), Social Policy Review 34: Analysis and Debate in Social Policy, 2022 (Social Policy Review, pp. 134-157). Bristol University Press.


da Luz Scherf, E. (2023a). Latin American perspectives on Indigenous social work: In search of mind, body, and soul. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 19(1), 155–165.


da Luz Scherf, E. (2023b). Anti-Racist Values in Portuguese Baccalaureate Social Work Education: A Content Analysis Study. International Journal of Social Work Values & Ethics, Forthcoming.


da Luz Scherf, E., & Silva, M. V. V. D. (2023). Oil giant, climate saviour, or somewhere in between: Human rights and the Norwegian climate paradox. International Journal of Public Law and Policy, Online first.


Hoagland, S.L. (2020). Aspects of the Coloniality of Knowledge. Critical Philosophy of Race 8(1), 48-60.


Kubota, R. (2020). Confronting Epistemological Racism, Decolonizing Scholarly Knowledge: Race and Gender in Applied Linguistics. Applied Linguistics, 41(5), 712–732.


Reimer‐Kirkham, S., Varcoe, C., Browne, A. J., Lynam, M. J., Khan, K. B., & McDonald, H. (2009). Critical inquiry and knowledge translation: Exploring compatibilities and tensions. Nursing Philosophy, 10(3), 152–166.


Silva, M. V. V. D., & da Luz Scherf, E. (2020). Dream the impossible dream? An ecosocialist account of the human right to a healthy environment. Direito Ambiental e Sociedade, 10(2), 35–60.

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