Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Towards an Ecofeminist Praxis within Social Work Pedagogy

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posted on 2021-11-08, 04:18 authored by Anderton, Joy Margery

Environmental sustainability is now widely accepted as a global imperative. Little progress will be made to achieving sustainability without a major paradigm shift. Radical social work has a commitment to social change and social justice. The author argues that social work education, which already has a firm tradition of empowering praxis, is strategically placed to contribute to education for sustainability. In order to make such a contribution, it must add environmental issues to its agenda. The thesis explores the author's application of an ecofeminist epistemology to her own pedagogical practice as a social work lecturer. Ecofeminism was chosen as having potential to contribute to new approaches to social work pedagogy because, like social work, it focuses on multiple injustices. Ecofeminism links social injustices, especially for women and people of colour, to the degradation of the earth. The thesis explores the history, development and key themes of ecofeminism and identifies elements of an ecofeminist praxis. The contextual background for this development is a discussion of the author's own experience as a social worker and social work educator, including key themes and issues raised by critiques of pedagogy from social work, feminism and ecology. The writer describes the participatory action research she conducted with social work and tourism students at the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside in the United Kingdom and in her regular social work teaching at Victoria University of Wellington. New Zealand. The teaching focus was 'sustainable community'. Research participants' perceptions of sustainable community were canvassed at different times during workshops and regular teaching sessions. These included lectures, discussions and participatory Boal-type theatre. The research design was participatory and reflexive, involving cycles of planning/action/reflection and further planning. The reflexive process was assisted by the use of video/audio recording and playback, questionnaires and response sheets. The empirical material was analysed using thematic categories and research outcomes were integrated into an interpretative framework using elements of an ecofeminist praxis. The author concludes that the ecofeminist praxis she developed makes a significant contribution to social work pedagogy. It expands the social work agenda to include the environment as a focus of concern as well as a source of knowledge. She suggests that the usefulness of ecofeminist praxis lies in its ability to transcend disciplinary boundaries and to make contributions beyond academia. She cites examples of an application of ecofeminism to a pedagogy of sustainability with potential to make creative responses to issues of local and global concern.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Social Work

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


Kindon, Sara; Neale, Jenny