ABSTRACT. This issue asks what a politics of kindness looks like in practice by presenting a series of examples from Aotearoa New Zealand. These articles in their various foci – ranging from the justice system to social policy, to education, to artistic practice – are drawn from a long-term transdisciplinary research project at the University of Auckland, Agencies of Kindness. The project began in response to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s concept of a politics of kindness. What does this actually mean, we wondered, and how might the study of a politics of kindness have relevance beyond Aotearoa’s shores? Indeed, the term ‘kindness’ has become a part of the political landscape, mainly due to the global pandemic. The injunction ‘to be kind’ has been frequently invoked as a way of encouraging social cohesion and consensus, with kindness framed as an important form of social currency. What then underpins this currency? What are its costs and benefits? How might we protect ‘kindness’ from its absorption into frameworks of political expediency? What are the radical or transformative dimensions of kindness? These are some of the questions that have guided the ongoing research project.

Keywords: politics; practice; kindness; wellbeing; social policy; care

How to cite: Willis, E., and Kavka, A. (2021). “Editorial: The Politics and Practices of Kindness,” Knowledge Cultures 9(3): 7–19. doi: 10.22381/kc9320211.

Emma Willis
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University of Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand
Alena Kavka
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Independent scholar

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