In the original manuscript presented at the writers’ workshop, we subtitled our presentation: ‘When the Indigenous and the Indigenized in social work intersect in China’. The word ‘Indigenous’ led to rigorous, forceful and sometimes emotional debate among the participants. Details of the debate are important and provide useful material for another book on this subject and we cannot do it justice here! However, what we want to do is to report why we decided to change the subtitle by using two Chinese terms – bentuhuade and bentude – instead of Indigenized and Indigenous. There are three reasons. First, to decentre the ‘Western domination’ of social work discourse, we should try to use terminology developed by people who are involved in the process of social work development in their own unique local context. Second, translation inevitably leads to a distortion of meaning. For instance, in our case bentuhuade bears the meanings of Indigenized, localized, contextualized, recontextualized, and so on. Similarly, bentude can be understood at least as Indigenous, local, native, home-made or home-grown, just to name a few senses in which the concept is used. Since we are describing a social process taking place in China, we think it is fair to use Chinese terminology to contextualize our discussion. Last, but certainly not least, we are conscious of the discursive consequence of any choice of words. One of the debates during the workshop regarded the political implications of the word ‘Indigenous’. As pointed out by some Aboriginal colleagues, the word ‘Indigenous’ has a significant meaning to the identity and history of Indigenous Peoples who have suffered from the continuous colonialization of their land in North America and elsewhere. They expressed strong concern over the usage of this word in the discussion of Indigenization. We have not come to the conclusion that this term should bear one fixed meaning. Nonetheless, with respect to our colleagues present at the workshop, and to avoid confusion and potential distraction from their political agenda, we have decided to stay away from the term ‘Indigenous’ in this discussion. More than respecting our Indigenous colleagues, there is a recurring caution against professional imperialism and the universality of Western1 social work values, knowledge and technology (Gray 2005;
Hugman 1996; Midgley 1981) which has gradually drawn people’s attention to the issue of Indigenization in the international social work literature. In the literature, Indigenization is generally understood as a process of adapting, adjusting and modifying imported knowledge – theories, values and technology – mainly from the West to fit the local context – cultural, social, economic and political – of a developing country (Ferguson 2005; Gray 2005; Nimmagadda and Cowger 1999; Walton and Abo El Nasr 1988). While this understanding recognizes the function of ‘agency’ – the autonomy to adapt and modify – of scholars and practitioners of local social work communities in the importing countries, there are still underlying problems with it.