Dialogism, place-responsive pedagogies and more-than-human relationality.

Year: 2019

Author: Renshaw, Peter

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper I reflect on dialogism (see Renshaw, 2017; Davies & Renshaw, 2019) and the humanist assumptions that have tethered it narrowly to human-human relations rather than to an encompassing relationality with the more-than-human world. Notions of “nature” arising from humanism have separated “the human” from the natural world and positioned humans as stewards and rulers. Nature, as the non-human “other”, is subservient to the interests of humans and available to be exploited to satisfy human needs. Nature, known through science, is managed through technologies that increase its utility for capitalist exploitation and profit – “cheap nature” (Moore, 2015, p.17). The consequences of this humanist and capitalist ideology are being felt currently in our precarious epoch, the Anthropocene, characterised by unprecedented extinction of species, habitat destruction and escalating climate change (Brennan, 2017; Haraway, 2015). But dialogism with its relational framing of self and other as “human” doesn’t offer a clear way forward to rethink the relationship between nature and humans. It offers, what Snaza et al (2014) have described as a “resolutely humanist” framing of how we “relate to animals and things” (p.40). We need to extend the notion of the ‘dialogic other’ beyond the human sphere to the more-than-human. Various efforts are being made by posthumanist researchers and educators to draw children into a sensuous and empathetic openness to the more-than-human world, where the “other” is noticed, listened to, loved, cared for, and appreciated aesthetically (Cutter-Mackenzie & Edwards, 2013; Taylor & Pacini-Ketchabaw, 2015; Tooth, 2018). In concluding the paper I present accounts from children (see Tooth & Renshaw, 2019) that reveal their entangled sense of relationality and emotional connectedness to the more-than-human world. Across their accounts, an emotionally attuned sensibility to the more-than-human world is evident. These sensibilities arose in the context of a place-responsive pedagogy. It seems possible to begin re-forming our relationships with the more-than-human world through such pedagogies.