Although humanism still prevails in much of Western thought, it is being challenged in numerous intellectual fields, political realms, economic policies, and cultural activities. Posthumanism is beginning to emerge within the area of curriculum studies. Posthumanism questions the binary mode of thought that human exceptionalism rationalizes. Posthumanism introduces new approaches to thinking about humans within the world that are emerging: these include postcolonial thought, new materialism, the non-human turn, critical animal studies, affect theory, disability studies, and to some extent environmental studies. The term “posthumanism” doesn’t cover just the intellectual movements listed above. To use “posthumanism” as a catch-all term would ignore the nuances of each of these new developments, and it would erase the limitations of posthumanism itself. Posthumanism intersects with other movements, but to fairly cover these other recent intellectual developments, they should be treated on their own terms and not within the confines of just posthumanism.
Posthuman Curriculum Studies: The Twilight of Humanism
John A. Weaver
Gender and Technology in Education
This article defines and analyses multiple theoretical frameworks which have been developed in order to explain the interactions of gender and digital technology in schooling. Specifically, this article addresses: science and technology studies (STS) and education, technofeminism and education, post-humanism and education, and liberal rights framings of gender and technology. These frameworks offer a key backdrop to the sites of several educational policy and pedagogical conflicts that have recently arisen around gender, technology, and education. These frameworks are explained in ways that foregrounds there connections to schooling debates around: cyberbullying, speech rights, activism, embodiment, queer pedagogies, and digital divides.
Critical Posthumanism in Education
Critical posthumanism in education proposes a response to the looming ecological disaster by developing an ethical subjectivity of relatedness. It points to the devastating and unsustainable effects of human-centered domination of “lesser” humans, the nonhuman living, and the environment resulting in the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene is a posthumanist boundary condition that exploits powers from multiple heterogenous entities and that approaches the limit of sustainable living. Critical posthumanism is a timely and positive intervention that criticizes the forms of domination originating from humanism and from other posthumanisms. These dominating powers result in the dehumanizing and environmentally devastating effects of techno- and bio-capitalism. Posthumanist critique is an affirmative ethical process that asserts the vibrancy of matter and life. It is based on an ethics of assembling, the principle of becoming sustainable of the more-than-human world. While critical posthumanism acknowledges that the analysis of the effects of power is important, it realizes that a difference can only be made when the entanglement of humans with all the living and nonliving others is fully recognized. Critical posthumanist education consists of experiments that explore how subjectivities could be opened to the affects of multiple others in the joyful processes of mutual becoming. The enhancement of affective relations “queery” humanity as such, identities, divisions such as “gender” and “race”, binaries such as human-animal, human-nature and human-technology. To promote mutual becoming, education produces subjectivities that are vigilant to the new ways the Capitalocene (“society of control”) both appropriates and suppresses the vitality of assemblages and the creativity of becomings.
Gender, Nonhuman Animals, and Education
Educational theorists are increasingly concerned with the areas of environmental education, ecological education, and animal studies. As social and political efforts to “go green” and make our industrial and personal habits more sustainable and ethical increase, schools as socializing agents take up these initiatives. Students already engage with nonhumans in significant ways in schools: they might interact with live nonhuman animals in extracurricular activities; they might dissect nonhuman animals in their science classes; they might eat the bodies of nonhuman animals at lunch; and they might read about literary or poetic representations of nonhuman animals in English classes. A continuously developing area of educational theory is how the ways in which students engage with nonhuman animals is gendered. Posthumanism and ecofeminism are philosophical paradigms that educational theorists engage with to think through the ways hierarchies of sentiency, humanity, and rationality are propagated by literary, cultural, and metaphorical representations of nonhuman others. There is a long history of women-animal comparisons that is evident in the literature and other cultural artifacts that we teach about in schools. Many students are also served animals as food in school cafeterias. Ecofeminist scholars and scholars of educational philosophy are likewise concerned with the gendered aspects of animal bodies as food and how the ontological representations of the bodies of women and their labor manifest in schools. Educational researchers are investigating these literary, metaphorical, and cultural comparisons.
The Effects of Agential Realism on Gender Research and Education
Agential realism presents a posthuman onto-epistemology that facilitates nuanced ways of engaging with the production of gender. Some key ways in which cisnormativities privilege particular ways of doing gender premise the need for a nonessentializing means of conceptualizing gender. Agential realism is situated among a range of research and educational approaches that are already engaged in this project. The theory makes a novel contribution to this project via its treatment of matter and discursivity as immanently entangled, which fundamentally reconfigures thinking around how gender may manifest. Definitions and examples of the use of Baradian terms, including phenomena, apparatuses, intra-action, ethico-onto-epistemology, spacetimemattering, and diffraction, demonstrate agential realism’s capacity to expand gender theory. The approach becomes a means of simultaneously engaging with less conventional ways in which gender is already experienced, as well as potentiating more expansive possibilities for gendered becomings. As evidence of its impact, research that has employed agential realist thinking in relation to gender in and beyond educational settings is drawn on to further delineate the field. This includes four subsections—early childhood gender education, secondary school gender and education, tertiary educational genderings, and extracurricular genderings—each of which draws on a range of circumstances and responses to gender. These examples embody leading scholarship at the juncture of agential realism and gender theory, which already offer a diversity of considerations that otherwise would not have been possible.
Education Research Beyond Cyborg Subjectivities
Annette Gough and Noel Gough
The term “cyborg,” as a combination of “cybernetics” and “organism,” was coined by Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline in 1960 in a paper presented at a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conference on space exploration as a representation of a particular challenge of space travel: physically adapting a human body to survive in a hostile environment rather than modifying the environment. Soon after, NASA commissioned “The Cyborg Study” to investigate the theoretical possibilities of incorporating life support–related technologies into future spacecraft design. From the beginning, cyborgs were seen as the realization of a transhumanist goal—liberating humans from the limitations of the body and its environment by means of mechanization. Outside of space exploration, the term “cyborg” has evolved to encompass an expansive mesh of the mythological, metaphorical, and technical. Initially mainly taken up by science fiction writers to create superhumans, the notion entered cultural studies in the 1980s, particularly through Donna Haraway’s feminist “cyborg manifesto,” which argues that we are all cyborgs. Since then, terminology has shifted, and cyborgs are more likely called “posthumans,” “more-than-humans,” “other-than-humans,” or “companion species.” Discussions of cyborg and posthuman subjectivities in educational research have taken two main directions. The first argues that with equipment like tablets, smartphones, and laptops, students and teachers are already cyborgs—hybrids of human and machine—accessing information, resources, networks, groups, personal relations, libraries, and mass media through the Internet. Other research has investigated how the construction of cyborg and posthuman subjectivities changes the relationships between humans and their surroundings, devising new social, ethical, and discursive ways of thinking and representation.
Natalie LeBlanc and Rita L. Irwin
Since its conception, a/r/tography has been described as an interdisciplinary, dynamic, and emergent practice, blending visual, narrative, performative, poetic, and other modes of inquiry with qualitative methodologies such as ethnography, auto-ethnography, autobiography, and participatory or educational action research. Although some a/r/tographers utilize traditional modes of data-gathering methods, such as interviews, transcripts, and field notes, not all practices of a/r/tography refer to the recording or collection of ideas as “data,” and if they do, they are used in combination with, or in relation to, art-making, creative writing, or performance. As an arts-based methodology grounded in the physicality of making and creating, a/r/tography is situated outside traditional research structures. It is framed by a continual process of questioning where understandings are not predetermined and where artistic contexts, materials, and processes create transformative events, interactive spaces in which the reader/viewer/audience can co-create in meaning-making. In short, a/r/tography is an arts-based form of inquiry that disrupts standardized criteria of research while evoking and provoking alternate possibilities for understanding.
Linnea Bodén, Hillevi Lenz Taguchi, Emilie Moberg, and Carol A. Taylor
Relational materialism was first articulated and framed within Actor Network Theory. In educational research, the concept has emerged with the growing influence of Agential Realism and New Material Feminism, and in the engagements in the “turn to materiality” and/or “turn to ontology.” A relational materialist approach to educational studies can be narrowed down to three key principles: the principle of general symmetry; the principle of material semiotics; and the principle of method. The enactment of relational materialism depends on how these principles come to work in the engagement with central educational problems, such as subjectivity, performativity and practice. Relational materialism takes the starting-point in the problems and concerns of human and material actors or agents, for whom the research can make a difference. While doing so, it acknowledges the methodological difficulties and possibilities when carefully attending simultaneously to discourse, materialities and their relations. Striving towards a methodological sensibility, the enactment of relational materialism in education research entails the emergence and creation of more and multiple methods to know the multiple realities of education. This also makes it possible for relational materialist research to become productive of new and additional educational realities that can, perhaps, make an affirmative difference to the actors or agents concerned.
Postdevelopmental Conceptions of Child and Childhood in Education
Karin Murris, Kaitlin Smalley, and Bridget Allan
Conceptions of child and childhood have been variously (re)constructed by adults throughout history, and yet systematic questioning of the epistemological, ontological, political, and ethical assumptions informing these conceptions remains a relatively new field of academic inquiry. The concepts of child and childhood are philosophically problematic because, although children can be biologically and physiologically categorized, the normative values attached to these categories matter politically and ethically in educational practices and theory. The philosophy of childhood is therefore concerned with the following: questions about adults’ claims to knowledge of childhood and child subjectivity; the limitations and implications of the notion of “development” structuring theoretical claims about child and childhood; the construction of various alternative and intersecting figurations of child; the examination of the socio-historical, philosophical, and biological bases of these figurations, and their ethico-political implications—particularly for education. Furthermore, more radically, contemporary postcolonial, postdevelopmental, and posthuman theorists deconstruct traditional adult–child binaries by claiming that understanding the logic of childhood is reflected in, and socio-historically situated in relation to, colonialism. This same logic used to justify the silencing and structural oppression of children is applied to Indigenous peoples in settler-colonial states. Postdevelopmental conceptions of childhood problematize the very notion of development on which psycho-social scientific theories of childhood depend. By drawing on disciplines other than academic philosophy, in particular childhood studies and early childhood education, a wide range of conceptions of child and childhood can be mapped that shape educational theories and practices in all phases of education: “developing child,” “scientific child,” “psycho-social child,” “subhuman child,” “superhuman child,” “philosophical child,” “postdevelopmental child,” “savage child,” and “posthuman child.”
Critical ESL Education in Canada
Sunny Man Chu Lau
Critical approaches to English as a second language (ESL) education in Canada broadly fall under two intersecting orientations—inclusivity-focused and issue-focused. Inclusivity-focused education refers to critical approaches to ESL that valorize minoritized and/or Indigenous students’ voices, languages, and other semiotic resources in learning (in) English. This inclusive orientation aims to challenge systemic marginalization of multicultural voices and identities, destabilize static notions of languages and other modes of communication, and importantly, decolonize inequitable power structures inherent in academic and broader social setting. An issue-focused approach adopts an explicit critical agenda, using eco-social issues as the foci of curricular content to engage students in critical interrogation of social assumptions and participation in related class-based action research to simultaneously learn the language and enact change in broader communities. Recent trends in critical issue-focused inquiries also draw on posthumanist, socio-materialist, and Indigenous perspectives to offer more complex, interconnected, and distributed views of language learning and social change. These perspectives not only urge for alternative ways (cognitive, bodily, multi-sensory, affective, and spatial) of critical engagement but also a more human decentering perspective to understand the ethical interdependence of the human/non-human world.