Proposition 7 - Acting in Response to Place and More-than-Human
Updated: Sep 28
This is the final in the 'Proposition' series written by Dr. Catherine Hamm and Dr. Jeanne Marie Iorio. We explore the shift in thinking and perspectives that comes about through a relationship with Place, including ideas of regeneration and renewal when confronted with a dead and decaying pigeon.
Proposition 7_Acting in response to Place and More-than-Human
In this podcast, we engage with Proposition 7, Acting in response to Place and the more-than-human.
What can Boon Wurrung and Bunurong Country teach us about renewal and regeneration? This question provokes our actions as we encounter a dead pigeon during one of our weekly walks. We wonder what we might learn about living and dying well with each other (Haraway, 2016) The children and their teachers engage cautiously with the dead pigeon, the teachers wonder about keeping the children at a ‘safe’ distance. Rather than moving away, the children and teachers sit silently with Pigeon, noticing the entanglements of Pigeons, Bees, Wind, Grass; attending to the small movements of Pigeon’s feathers as they move with Wind. The preschool children wonder what happened to Pigeon? Why are the bees entangled with Pigeon? Children are curious about what will happen to Pigeon. Teachers do not attempt to respond with a single, scientific answer, instead they pose a question to the children; What can Boon Wurrung and Bunurong Country teach us about renewal and regeneration? Over the next few days, we visit Pigeon and document the changes to her body. She is disappearing slowly, returning to Country.
This encounter is challenging for teachers. Their initial response is to keep children at a ‘respectful’ distance. The teachers hold an image of the child as capable and competent, providing opportunities for curious thinking. The encounter generates an inquiry that responds to the provocation; What can Boon Wurrung and Bunurong Country teach us about renewal and regeneration? The children and their teachers take inspiration from the book Welcome to Country (2015) by Aunty Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy. Welcome to Country shares local, First Nations worldviews and invites readers to ‘care for country’. First Nations perspectives are foregrounded as children and their teachers wonder how Boon Wurrung and Bunurong Country might renew and regenerate pigeon. Children are not positioned in practices that script them as innocent, unable to engage with what it means for the pigeon to die and to be returned to Country for renewal. These practices offer an alternative to environmental stewardship narratives where children might be encouraged to ‘look after nature’ in an innocent way, rather than engaging with the realities that come with living and dying together.
Acting in response to place and the more-than-human others requires ‘kin-making’ (Haraway, 2017). Haraway asserts that by making kin, humans must be accountable to those that they are in relation with. Humans must take seriously their response-abilities to living well and dying with earthly others. Haraway explains ‘response-ability’ as the capacity to respond ethically and politically to situations that emerge from being with the world. This is in contrast to responsibility, which is defined as working through a list of pre-determined tasks that you already know what your response will be. This framing does not leave room to generate impartial, imperfect responses that engage with ‘matters of concern’ (Latour, 2004b). Latour’s concept of ‘matters of concern’ offer a way to disrupt the matters of fact that are so often part of early childhood theories and practices. For example, linear developmental stages, longitudinal cost-benefit studies, and prescribed programs and assessments focused on checklists of adult-child interactions. Matters of concern repositions teaching and learning to think with relationality. In terms of learning with place, this means we can connect with and work within complex relationships with place, humans, and the more-than-human (plants, animals, insects, waterways, landforms). Part of this practice is making place and more-than-human kin central to our thinking and actions and represents a shift from the human always being foregrounded. Teaching and learning radically changes in this shift as pedagogy and practices emerge that are in relation to place and more-than-human.
How do your teaching practices work to foreground Place and more than human others?