Global civil society and adult education for social change : a postcolonial perspective

Hoff, Lutz Werner Wilhelm (2012) Global civil society and adult education for social change : a postcolonial perspective. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Adult education plays an important role in global economic development and features prominently in debates about changing requirements of post-industrial knowledge societies. This dominant technical-instrumental understanding of adult education in public discourse masks the transformative function of certain types of adult education - that is, the possibilities of adult education to improve social justice issues such as workers’ rights, human rights, civic participation in governance and socially just development. Given the increasing social stratification between and within the North and South in the global era, the potential of adult education to effect social change has been rediscovered by organisations within global civil society, namely international non-governmental organisations (INGOs). The broad objective of this research was to carry out an in-depth qualitative case study of a human rights advocacy program provided by a Northern INGO predominantly operating within the global South. The study analyses how participants see this program in terms of its potential to contribute to progressive social change in their home communities across the Asia-Pacific region. The following questions guided the study: 1. To what extent does this adult education program challenge existing systems of domination and marginalisation? 2. How did completion of the program affect participants’ views of their abilities to facilitate social action within their communities? Data sources for this research were interviews with 19 participants and staff and questionnaires from 28 participants of the program from a variety of countries in the Asia-pacific region. The gap in the literature that this study addressed is that existing empirical research sidelines the analysis of the globalisation, adult education, and social change nexus from a perspective that takes the marginalised other seriously, tending instead to mirror the material subjugation of the South in discursive practices. Social change is highly context-specific and strategies to advance it depend on the way in which people understand their reality and are affected by adverse social conditions. The present study employed a postcolonial framework that provided a holistic approach to analysing adult education for social change inclusive of material, political, and social conditions and the interplay between these from the local to the global level. The program convincingly exemplified an example of adult education for counter-hegemonic resistance against the dominant neoliberal discourse. It achieved this by enabling participants, based on Freirian pedagogical principles, to locate the problem of social change and frame their strategies to address it within mutually constitutive local and global developments and the discourses that describe them. It provided the underpinning knowledge and skills for effective advocacy and created opportunities to build networks between various stakeholders. At minimum, most advocates accord their participation in the program a supporting role in enhancing their ability to examine causes for social injustices and ways to address these. Some advocates even regarded their program participation as fundamental in understanding these issues. Almost all participants reported an increased skill-set that enabled them to become more effective advocates.

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ID Code: 50652
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Hickling-Hudson, Anne & Kapitzke, Cushla
Keywords: adult education, civil society, colonialism, globalisation, global civil society, hegemony, human rights, INGO, neo-colonialism, NGO, postcolonial theory, social change, subaltern
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 29 May 2012 02:53
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015 02:25

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