Lifework': Inverting human-centric hegemony to country-centred caring through education

Year: 2017

Author: Rey, Jo

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

When modernity creates fragmented lives, and demands we engage in fragmented roles at work, school, university, at home and even on holidays and within our social spheres, the common quest is for the illusory "work/life balance". Further, when we broaden the lens to include our roles ecologically, we realise our ability to care for Country and the environment is also fractured. In an era when the planet is suffering from the consequences of corporatized globalization through multinationals, neo-liberal ideologies, and continuing colonization hegemonies, we need approaches that arrest these fracturing processes.

This paper argues that recognition of our existence as relational with human and other-than-human beings can invert our approach from seeking "work/life balance" to living as a 'lifeworking' (Mitchell, 2016, 2017). By focusing on 'lifework' as an integrative approach, where our lives and work are influencing each other, I suggest we can disrupt and obstruct fragmenting processes which have been set in play through western epistemological hegemonies and colonization mechanisms. I call these 'dis-Integration' processes, and they arise through, and play out in, our educational systems from early childhood, through schooling, and into higher education sectors. Dis-Integrated education creates dis-Integrated workplaces and results in dis-Integrated lives.

Based on scholarly work in the fields of environmental humanities, ecopoetics, and findings from the doctoral project, 'Country Tracking Voices', where seven Dharug Aboriginal women yarn-up their relationships with Country, community and family, a clear and consistent approach is revealed, across all participants, involving an inversion of the usual fragmented responses to work and life. Instead each practices a way of 'lifework' that integrates working for Country, community, and family. In the process there is an expression of an enhanced sense of personal belonging. Self becomes an outcome rather than a cause. A Lifeworking approach becomes for adults what play is for infants - learning from integrated experiences. I propose that 'Integration as Lifework' can invert continuing colonization epistemologies.

By integrating Indigenous ways of being, doing and knowing with recent post-humanist understandings we can invert dis-Integration processes that our education systems enact. Such an inversion opens pathways for resolving issues around sustainability of Indigenous peoples' knowledges and cultures, as well as sustainability of the planet.