Gnarly problems and provocative questions: De-colonising global citizenship in a Te Tiriti led university

Dr Sharon McLennan1

1Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand


In her seminal work on de-colonising global citizenship Vanessa de Oliveira Andreotti suggests educators need to ‘go up the river’ to the roots of global problems, to avoid perpetuating thin versions of global citizenship which leave untouched assumptions of us/them, rich/poor, and helper/helped. She asks: “is the practice of global citizenship supporting or suppressing deeper education about global issues, and ethical solidarities with dissenting communities?” This question is central to the teaching of a suite of citizenship courses at Massey University where students are encouraged to reflect on the multiple factors shaping their identity, including New Zealand’s colonial past, and to locate themselves in relation to gnarly global problems. These courses have been developed in the context of a university that has expressed a commitment to becoming Te Tiriti-led – that is, to uphold the Treaty of Waitangi as the founding document of our nation, and its principles through our practice. In this paper I reflect on the process of teaching global citizenship in the context of a Tiriti-led university and, in doing so, address Andreotti’s questions and explore the unique perspective New Zealand academics, students and graduates have to offer in relation to the problems currently facing our world.


Dr. Sharon McLennan (PhD Development Studies, MPhil, BNursing), Lecturer, Institute of Development Studies, School of People, Environment and Planning

Massey University,

Sharon McLennan is a lecturer in the Development Studies Programme at Massey University and teaches global citizenship in the Massey BA core courses. She has research interests in international volunteering, health and development.

Current and recent research projects:

  • Cuba in the Pacific
  • Global citizenship education
  • Voluntourism in Fiji

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