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Twitter @jitsnz

Youth activism in New Zealand: Radicalism and the political constraints of neoliberalism


Adopting a Political Activist Ethnography approach, with knowledge production grounded in the voices of actors, this thesis will explore the way in which young activists in New Zealand use the political boundaries between 'acceptable' and 'radical' political theories, approaches and actions in their work.
Key questions are about the constraints of political agency in the neoliberal context; the definition and boundaries of mainstream and radical contexts; and the goals that activists set and the theories, beliefs, praxis and methods they use in moving between them.


Professor Karen Nairn (Primary Supervisor)
Dr Sophie Bond (Secondary Supervisor)

Young Activists Research Project

What inspires young people (aged 18–29+) to join others to create social change?

Kyle is a Research Assistant with this project.

Find out about the Young Activists Research Project

The College of Education offers two doctoral programmes - the Doctor of Philosophy and the Doctor of Education. A number of PhD and EdD theses are available in full text.

Completed doctoral and master's research from 2000


Matthews, K. R. (2023). Climate activist knowledge-practices and radicalism in Extinction Rebellion Aotearoa New Zealand (PhD). University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Retrieved from

Matthews, K. (2022). Social movements solving the climate crisis under te Tiriti? Extinction Rebellion and the challenges of decolonising a movement with colonial origins. Proceedings of the New Zealand Geographical Society (NZGS) Conference. (pp. 69-70). Retrieved from

Matthews, K. (2022). 'Rigid radicalism' and the disciplining of radical activist identities. Proceedings of the Sociological Association of Aotearoa New Zealand (SAANZ) Conference: Now what? Reimagining hope, 'truth' and equality. Retrieved from

Nairn, K., Sligo, J., Showden, C. R., Matthews, K. R., & Kidman, J. (2022). Fierce hope: Youth activism in Aotearoa. Wellington, New Zealand: Bridget Williams Books, 300p. doi: 10.7810/9781990046681

Showden, C. R., Nairn, K., & Matthews, K. R. (2022). ‘So people wake up, what are we gonna do?': From paralysis to action in decolonizing activism. Ethnicities, 22(5), 663-684. doi: 10.1177/14687968211062916

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