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Jonas Andreasen Lysgaard

The educational desires of Danish and South Korean environmental NGOs

Research output: Book/anthology/dissertation/reportPh.D. thesis


This study investigates why it appears to be so hard to live up to some of the educational desires expected by environmental and sustainability educators. Via an ‘accelerating analysis’ the study examines how educational principles to intended outcomes are variously encoded in their fields of practice before zooming in to examine case examples from Danish and South Korean environmental NGOs engaged in non-formal educational work. Drawing on interviews with members of traditional through to radical NGOs, abductive analysis explores how the public is variously understood and positioned as a ‘learning entity’. A sense of frustration is clearly apparent as the NGOs attempt to influence how the public live, even as efforts typically promote (if not repeat) engagement and educational strategies and activities that are known to fail.
Inspired by the theories of Jacques Lacan and Slavoj Žižek the study analyses the significance of this frustration, illuminating why it is that the very ways in which NGOs pursue particular forms of environmental and sustainability education make possible a ‘cynical identification’ with the foundational ideals of the NGO. On the one hand NGOs operate in a field where the possibilities of realising the ideals and instigating change are slim; on the other the inherent impossibility of such tasks creates meaning for the lives of the members of the NGO. To illuminate this tension the analytical concept of ‘Bad Practice’ is introduced, to show how individuals’ construct meaning through everyday actions that are perceived to be ‘bad’ even as they find them very hard to shed, e.g. as features or habits of thinking and action. As with the corresponding notion of existential ‘bad faith’, this enables a situation where it is possible to uphold the belief that ideals are followed while living out their opposites. A psychoanalytically-inflected perspective then, adds directly to the existing body of critique of environmental and sustainability education theory and practice, but it can also be used to suggest attention is given to the ‘positive’ aspects of bad practice too; namely, rather than rejecting bad practice or faith entirely, their significance in meaning making and the lives of educators could open up a more robust pathway towards and theorisation of ‘the good’.
Original languageEnglish
Place of publicationCopenhagen
PublisherDepartment of Education, Faculty of Arts, University of Aarhus
Number of pages246
ISBN (Print)978-87-7684-977-1
Publication statusPublished - 2012

    Research areas

  • Miljø- og klimapædagogik, Uddannelseskultur, Samfund/samtid

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