The Project


“If I could distill it down into one concept that we are pursuing in New Zealand it is simple and it is this. Kindness.  In the face of isolationism, protectionism, racism – the simple concept of looking outwardly and beyond ourselves, of kindness and collectivism, might just be as good a starting point as any.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in her address to the United Nations, 2018.


This is a collaborative and multi-disciplinary research project responding to Ardern’s repeated invocation of the value of kindness. In scrutinizing the performance and performativity of kindness in the context of Aoetaroa we wish to challenge some of the prevailing beliefs and assumptions about what constitutes kindness.

The project asks what a politics of kindness looks like, how kindness might be understood as ‘both resisting and shaping power relations’ and how individual acts of kindness help build networks of ‘flexible resilience.’

The project propose a broad-based analysis of both kindness and related concepts.  Key questions include:

  • How is kindness generally understood?  What are its associations and connotations?
  • How is it deployed in public life – what role does it have to play in social cohesion?
  • How is kindness understood across a range of different points of view, e.g. cultural and linguistic, gendered, demographic?
  • What are the particular inflections of kindness in the Aotearoa context?
  • How does kindness function not just individually but also collectively or organizationally?

As research based out of an academic institution, this project aims to analyze these questions through symposiums organized through the course of the year. Information for these will be available on this website.