Visual and Beyond: Rethinking Aesthetics, Ethics and the Senses in Education

Year: 2016

Author: Mills, Kathy A.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The social turn in the new literacy studies is well-established after a considerable history of struggle for recognition, while the sensory turn is only just beginning to demonstrate the possibilities for transforming education research. Sensory literacies is an original theory proposed by the author that foregrounds the forgotten role of the body and the senses in literacy practices (Mills, 2016). It extends recent theories of the history and anthropology of the senses (Howes, 2014; Classen 2014). From a sensory literacies perspective, the mind is not seen as separated from the body, but both mind and body integral to literacy practices (Mills & Park, 2015). Previous conceptions of literacy have focused on the visual-linguistic representations of meanings in texts and literacy practices, which is associated historically with ocularcentrism - the dominance and privileging of the visual - across many disciplines in Western societies. This presentation opens up a revitalized understanding of literacy practices as interrelated with the other senses, involving an expanded sensorium that includes movements of the hands, feet and body, and other senses in concert (Mills, 2013). The author highlights examples of the sensoriality of literacy practices from ethnographic research with Indigenous and non-Indigenous school communities, interpreting students’ embodied sense-making activity across a range of literacy practices. These include examples of locomotion and kinesis or movement filmmaking, as children capture their movements while walking, sliding, balancing on walls with the camera. Examples from an Indigenous community include cultural ceremonies involving marks on the skin, dance, and listening to country. The presentation is highly significant for schooling in societies in which the regulation of the bodies and the senses in education is often to the detriment of literacy learning and other valuable ways of knowing. References: Howes & Classen (2014). Ways of Sensing: Understanding the Senses in Society. Routledge. Mills, K. A. (2016) Literacy Theories for the Digital Age: Social, Critical, Multimodal, Spatial, Material and Sensory Lenses. New Perspectives in Language and Education. Multilingual Matters, Bristol, United Kingdom. Mills, K. A., Comber, B., & Kelly, P. (2013). Sensing place: embodiment, sensoriality, kinesis, and children behind the camera. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 12(2), pp. 11-27. Mills, K. A. & Park, J. Y. (2015). Race, the senses, and the materials of writing practices. In Turbill, J., Brock, C., & Barton, G. (Eds.) Teaching Writing in Today's Classrooms: Looking Back to Look Forward. Australian Literacy Educators' Association, Norwood, S.A., pp. 298-312.