The post-human ‘I’ in Love Your Lagoons

Year: 2015

Author: Somerville, Margaret

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

‘Love Your Lagoons’ was an unruly partnership project, a complex socio-political and environmental entanglement in the Dharawal Country of Sydney’s water catchment. The project, funded through an ‘enforceable action’ imposed on a coal seam gas company for failure to monitor their sites in the study area, was required to engage with three local shire councils, a range of community organisations, and primary and secondary schools across the catchment. Schools were invited to connect to a local wetland (river, creek, lake, swamp, lagoon) within walking distance and integrate the wetland as a place-based sustainability activity into their curriculum. Seven primary and secondary schools including over 300 children participated. The focus of this presentation is how children represented the post-human ‘I’, following Rautio’s contention that we ‘consider whether bridging the nature-culture divide can be attempted by exploring practices through which children themselves seem to do this’ (Rautio, 2013, 403). The paper focuses on data from one high school that offered a weekly walk to their local Redbank Creek as a sports option called ‘Regeneration’.

The paper is framed in terms of the post-human concept of entanglement (Barad, 2007) in the fate of the planet (Zalasiewicz et al, 2010, 2231). It addresses the ‘big, risky, question … If we give up ‘human’ as separate from non-human, how do we exist? Are we willing to take on this question that is so hard to think but that might enable different lives?’ (Lather & St Pierre, 2013, 631). The data consists of videos of children’s engagement with Redbank Creek, and artwork and photographs produced by the children. The paper proposes that viewing children’s responses to Redbank Creek from the perspective of Barad’s ‘intra-action’ offers new insights into the decentred human subject of the posthuman ‘I’, requiring new theories of the relations between language, representation and worldly engagement. The special needs students in particular have enabled a collective process of learning to be human differently. It concludes with some thoughts about learning to be human differently through integrating the post-human into school curriculum.

Barad, K. (2007) Meeting the Universe Halfway. Duke.
Lather, P. & St.Pierre, E.A. (2013).Post-qualitative research. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 26(6), 629-633.