The love ethic in international rural community work

2017-03-01T01:04:01Z (GMT) by Godden, Naomi Joy
Influential 20th Century activists such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Thich Nhat Hanh were motivated by love, a key feature of the human condition (Maturana & Verden-Zoller 2008). However, the social work profession generally avoids love as an ethic of practice (Banks 2006; Butot 2004; Morley & Ife 2002). Yet feminist bell hooks (2000) claims love can transform dominant structures of inequality, such as capitalism, patriarchy, racism and environmental exploitation. Drawing from Peck (1978), hooks describes love as ‘[t]he will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth’ (2000, p. 4). Ingredients of love are care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment and trust, with honest and open communication, forgiveness and giving. This Thesis including Published Works considers the love ethic in international rural community work. It includes six sole-authored journal articles with an exegesis to analyse my research regarding love in community work and contribute an alternative paradigm to social work and community work theory and practice. The research questions are: What is love in international rural community work? and, How can love transform structural inequality? My methodology was informed by change-oriented research, a four-part epistemology of change I developed that involves shared power (McCall 2005; Mikkelsen 2005), participation (Arnstein 1969; Davidson 1998; Heron 1996; Pretty et al. 1995), action (Greenwood & Levin 2007; Stringer 2007) and contextual reflexivity (Delva, Allen-Meares & Momper 2010; Denzin & Giardina 2009; Saukko 2003). Change-oriented research is a collaborative process to understand and transform social injustices through cycles of action and reflection, generating multiple and contextualised knowledges that empower participants to collectively take action for sustainable change. Through the co-operative inquiry method (Heron 1996), I worked with community workers, volunteers, activists and community members as co-inquirers (also referred to as co-researchers) in three case studies in Timor-Leste, Australia and Peru to collaboratively develop knowledge regarding love-based community work. Each co-operative inquiry used creative methods such as visual art, theatre, dialogue and storytelling (Bessarab & Ng'andu 2010; Holt 2013; Knowles & Cole 2008; Leavy 2008; Markula 2006; Pauwels 2011). I combined the inquiry outcomes into a theory of practice entitled The Love Ethic for Transformational Change. The Love Ethic is grounded in hooks’ love-centred radical feminism, dialogue (Freire 1989; Westoby & Dowling 2013), nonviolence (Gandhi 2005; Hanh 1993; King Jr. 1967a; Kelly & Sewell 1988) and the interconnectedness of people and nature. The Love Ethic has four features: • It is based on values and universal rights of humans and nature; • It promotes participatory, democratic and gender transformative community work processes that intertwine people and nature and actively challenge structures of power and inequality; • It aims for structural change for universal wellbeing of people and nature; and, • Love-based action is reciprocal and cyclical. The Love Ethic supports social movements to collectively critique and transform inequitable systems. This research is a radical contribution to social work theory and practice. I argue love is an ethical philosophy of action for progressive people’s movements to bring about a new world order of equality and sustainability