Inclusive schooling by way of the inhuman: Moments of becoming more-than-animal in a school for marginalised boys

Year: 2018

Author: Ejlertsen, Maria

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper draws on Karen Barad’s concepts of agential cuts and the inhuman to trouble normative subjectifications of marginalised students and contribute to a re-framing of conversations on inclusive education. Inclusive and diverse education is a key goal in educational policy and practice in Australia and internationally. Nevertheless, schooling practices can work to alienate certain students exhibiting behaviours associated with ‘schooling disengagement’ and, for some, result in frequent suspensions and being expelled from multiple ‘mainstream’ schools. Such students may then find their way to less conventional schools, who offer more flexible learning options. This paper draws on data created through observations and interviews with staff and students within one such school in regional South East Queensland, catering for boys aged 8-15 who have been excluded from mainstream schooling. The starting point of the observations and interviews was on what matters to how the boys feel about schooling and their sense of belonging at school, with particular attention to material entanglements and affective intensities. Student interviews with 6 boys aged 8-11 years were centred around photos taken at school by the boys themselves. They were asked to take photos of places and things that matter to how they feel at school and their sense of belonging at school. From this, a normative subjectification of the boys as individuals struggling to manage their anger emerged and the photos mostly focused on factors which would help them be calm. Particularly, the boys’ engagement with animals and ‘natural features’ in and around the school were found to be important, yet intangible to speak about. To explore this further the paper turns to Karen Barad’s concepts of intra-action, agential cuts, and the inhuman as an infinite alterity, to explore the material-affective processes at play in the entanglements of bodies, animals/natural features and subjectivities when boy meets animal. It is proposed that such entangled encounters work to suspend normative subjectivations and subject/object boundaries and thus offers productive moments of ‘infinite alterity’, which exceeds notions of inclusion and exclusion (Barad, 2012). I consider how such a reading can contribute to a re-imaging of how we view and do inclusive schooling - by way of the inhuman.