Editorial: Performance and Radical Kindness

Emma Willis


The origin of this issue lies in a research collaboration formed at the University of Auckland in 2018, “Agencies of Kindness.” The interdisciplinarly group came together in response to what Aotearoa New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had described in a speech to the United Nations as a politics of kindness: “If I could distil 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” (Ardern 2018). Across a range of fields including politics and policy, education, social work, justice, creative arts and business, members of the group wondered what a politics of kindness looked like in practice: What does it mean to “do” kindness? For this issue, we ask how kindness becomes properly performative in the sense that we understand in performance studies — not simply a description but a powerful transformative action.


kindness; performance studies; social transformation; agency; power relations

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