Proposition 4 - Notice Place and More-than-Human
Updated: Sep 28
This part of the journey encourages us to become more aware of what Place is 'telling' us. Using our senses such as sight and hearing, we can discover a lot about Place if we are open to being affected by it. The podcast on biodiversity might also be complementary here.
Stop seeing just 'Plant' or 'Insect' and notice the difference in the leaves and flowers of the multitudes of different species that make up your chosen Place.
What did you notice?
Proposition 4: Notice Place and More-than-Human
In this podcast, we engage with proposition 4, Noticing Place and more-than-human.
It is a crisp Wattle season morning on Wurundjeri-Woi Wurrung Country. All kinds of wattle trees are bursting with yellow, white and cream coloured blossoms. High up in the Manna Gum tree at the edge of Creek, Balyang (Bat) is trying to sleep. On the ground below, a group of preschoolers and their teachers are busy creating structures with Bark. Waa the Crow is calling loudly in Manna Gum from Waa (Crow) attracts the attention of the humans (children and teachers) on the ground below. In the branches, Balyang and Waa are jostling for position. Humans are entangled in multispecies relations that are always present in local places. We are drawn into the encounter as Balyang and Waa engage each other in a loud scramble for a place on the tree branch. The teachers do not attempt to “explain” to the children what is happening, rather we are all entangled in this everyday moment of becoming-with.
Drawing inspiration from Donna Haraway’s notion of ‘becoming-with’ (Haraway, 2008; 2016), the concept of place as a pedagogical contact zone (Haraway, 2008, Common Worlds Research Collective, 2016; Hamm & Boucher, 2018) generates pedagogical practices that respond to human and other-than-human entanglements and understand Place as active and agentic. The complex work of learning with place calls for spaces or zones that support new ways of doing and brings together many knowledges. Haraway (2008) notes the contact zone as where ‘diverse bodies and meanings co-shape one another . . . The partners do not precede the meeting; species of all kinds, living and not, are consequent on a subject and object-shaping dance of encounters (p. 4). Place a pedagogical contact zone connects with Haraway’s concept, creating a space to think with a range of perspectives. These perspectives include learning to be affected (see Latour, 2004) and place-thought (see Watts, 2013).
Learning to be affected draws on Latour’s (2004a) concept of ‘the more you learn the more differences exist” (p. 214). Learning with place is the action of being awake and open to the many possibilities and provocations within the experiences of walking with, thinking with, listening with place. It is the noticing and understanding that place is inscribed with multiple layers and paying attention to the ethical and political responsibilities to these entanglements. For example, in Australia (and other colonised countries), all the places where we live, learn, play and work are unceded, stolen territories that hold millennia of stories. When we begin to pay attention and notice our local places from these deeper perspectives, we are called into connection in different ways. Latour reminds us to move beyond either/or and the duality of object/subject or human/non-human through the action of spending time and being open to many facets of seeing and listening with our local Place.
Connected to the idea of learning to be affected, is the concept of ‘place thought’. Place-thought is grounded in an Anishinaabe (First Nations people from south-east Canada) worldview and is based upon the premise that land is “alive and thinking and that humans and non-humans derive agency through the extensions of these thoughts” (Watts, 2013, p. 21). Vanessa Watts, an Anishinaabe scholar activates this concept through the Anishinaabe creation story of Sky Woman where the earth is created as Sky Woman falling through a hole in the sky lands on the back of a turtle. This connection between human and more-than-human illustrates an interconnection that is ‘a theoretical understanding of the world via a physical embodiment’ (Watts, 2013 p. 21). Moving beyond the allegory of a creation story, Watts asserts that the story of Sky Woman is an historical account, thus disrupting the Euro-Western practice of constructing Indigenous knowledges as ‘myths’. Understanding place from the perspective of place-thought positions the land as alive and agentic and provokes new ways to think and act with place. This includes Watts’ call for engaging in thoughtful relationships with place, land, and the more-than-human through care and communication.
What are the ways that you engage in a thoughtful relationship with your local place? What are the ways that you notice plants, animals, landforms, weather in your local place?