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Solo Motherhood and the State: Precarity, Agency, and Post-Development Discourse in Aotearoa New Zealand

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posted on 2021-12-09, 09:57 authored by Simpson, Lizzy

The rise of the ‘precariat’ under neoliberalism has garnered the attention of development studies scholars. Drawing on and contributing to this literature, in this thesis I explore the lived experiences of solo mothers in Aotearoa New Zealand and their own precarity in relation to a neoliberal State. Through interviewing seven self-identified solo mothers in the Greater Wellington region, in this thesis I explore solo mothers negotiations with the State through the following areas: state welfare, child support, employment, and housing. I outline how the State often exacerbates the precarity of the research participants, but also highlight the different tactics the participants employ to enact their agency and push back against the State. Shifting the discursive focus of Development Studies from the ‘Global South’ to the ‘Global North’, the experiences of the participants highlight the very real issues of inequality manifesting in the ‘developed’ setting. Informed by the visions of the participants and the wider literature, this research contributes to scholarship in gender post-development studies, illustrating the need for a comprehensive, socialistic welfare state, and to methodologically see value in localising development research in a way that accounts for local complexities. In opposition to neoliberal discourse, this thesis calls for the valorisation of care work, to better account for the competing responsibilities of solo mothers and to lessen the precarity they experience in their everyday lives.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Development Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Development Studies

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Overton, John; Sheoran Appleton, Nayantara