Adult education and radical habitus in an environmental campaign: learning in the coal seam gas protests in Australia
Ollis, Tracey and Hamel-Green, Michael 2015, Adult education and radical habitus in an environmental campaign: learning in the coal seam gas protests in Australia, Australian journal of adult learning, vol. 55, no. 2, pp. 202-219.
Summary: This paper examines the adult learning dimensions of protestors as they participate in a campaign to stop coal seam gas exploration in Gippsland in Central Victoria, Australia. On a global level, the imposition of coal seam gas exploration by governments and mining companies has been the trigger for movements of resistance from environmental groups. They are concerned about the impact of mining on their land, food and water supplies. In central Gippsland a group of ‘circumstantial activists’ comprised of farmers, tree changers and other local residents are campaigning against coal seam gas exploration. This unlikely coalition of environmental action groups has made effective use of a variety of community education strategies. This paper commences by outlining some of the key literature on learning and activism drawing on the education tradition of adult learning. We then draw on key concepts from Bourdieu’s writing on ‘habitus’ and ‘field’ to analyse the data from this research. We outline some of the learning practices of activists; through their involvement in this campaign, and the knowledge and skills they gain as they develop a feel for the game of protest. We argue circumstantial activists learn both formally and informally in the social environment of campaigning. Of particular interest is the role of more experienced activists from Friends of the Earth (FOE), a non-government organisation (NGO), as they pass on knowledge, experience, tactics and strategies to the novice and less experienced activists in this community campaign. We explore some of the contradictions of the protestors’ identification as activists using Bourdieu’s concepts of ‘doxa’ and ‘Ilusio’. The paper concludes by arguing learning in activism is a rich tradition of adult education and practice. However, Bourdieu’s writing on field and habitus makes an added contribution to interpreting the learning that occurs in the social space of a campaign or social movement.
Field of Research
130399 Specialist Studies in Education not elsewhere classified
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