Place, Being, Resonance

A Critical Ecohermeneutic Approach to Education

by Michael W. Derby (Author)
©2015 Textbook XXIV, 154 Pages
Series: Critical Qualitative Research, Volume 18


How do we begin to move beyond a use-relation with «natural resources» towards resonance with a deeply interrelated ecology? Place, Being, Resonance brings insights from the hermeneutic tradition, ecopoetics and indigenous epistemologies of place to bear on education in a world of ecological emergency. An ecohermeneutic pedagogy draws on both critical and lyrical ways of thinking to make a free space for encountering the more-than-human other. The conventional school system has long sat at the vanguard of an ecologically exploitative worldview and something more is called for than retrofitting current practices while reinforcing the substructure of modernity. As educators we walk an existentially trying path of attending to what needs to be called into question and for what presses questions upon us. What presuppositions shape our relation with the natural world? How might we work at the level of metaphor to generate the critical distance required for analysis, while keeping hearts and minds open to encounters that might heal our estrangement? How do we learn to both read place and recognize that we are read? Utilizing fungal mycelium as a way of thinking, this inquiry inoculates the fragmented landscape of education in order to bring learning into resonance with being. Here, along the path, the attentive mind finds little bell-shaped fungi scattering the forest floor, calling us home and provoking our thinking to be deeply imaginative when it needs to be.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • about the author
  • about the aook
  • this eBook can be cited
  • contents
  • acknowledgments
  • some notes on terminology
  • introduction—how to love black snow by David W. Jardine
  • chapter one—this is the mystery: meaning
  • chapter two—mycelia & the hermeneutics beneath us
  • chapter three—the ecopoetics of education
  • chapter four—metaphor & thinking with this bird
  • chapter five—inoculating hermeneutics: Heidegger substrates
  • chapter six—inoculating hermeneutics: Gadamer substrates
  • chapter seven—hermeneutics deep in the clearcut
  • chapter eight—re-indigenization & the ethics of home-making
  • chapter nine—conclusion: a tree of meaning
  • references


How does one acknowledge the confluence of forces giving rise to a thing such as this? Mark Fettes played a formative and sustaining role and it is an honour to acknowledge his extraordinary brilliance as a scholar, his radical spirit as a comrade, and his thoughtful and unremitting support as a friend. Likewise, this would never have been without years of rich conversation, camaraderie and multifarious support from Sean Blenkinsop. I walked for a long time lost in this life, looking for mentors and never expecting to find any —I am glad to have found you (now we can be lost together). I have also been blessed to find my peoples in the newfangled ultra-revolutionary assemblage of ecophilosopher-poets at Simon Fraser University including: Laura Piersol, John Telford, Vicki Kelly, Jodi MacQuarrie, Veronica Hotton, Michael Caulkins, Nora Timmerman, Carlos Ormond and Chloe Humphreys, word up. Thanks for the conversations, and the silent times in the forest.

Revelry and transcendental buffoonery for everyone in the Imaginative Education Research Group. In particular, a respectable dollop of gratitude for Kieran Egan and heartfelt vibes for Gillian Judson, thank you for your important work and for keeping rhythm, wonder and radical epistemic doubt on the table. Also Kym Stewart, Natalia Gajdamaschko, Tim Waddington, Annabella Cant, Joeri Cant, Heesoon Bai, Ann Chinnery, and Michael Ling.

Four scholars fundamentally shaped the thinking in this work and over the past three years I have had the good fortune to meet all of them—each proving to be uniquely beautiful and wild. First and foremost, David Jardine, thank you for ← ix | x → your boundless heart and for inspiring so many in this season of great untruth. I overheard one of your students say, “I did not even know what hermeneutics meant until I took this class, now it is all I think about.” This work began when I was elicited by your writing—I wanted to think and write like that, to teach and be like that—now it is all I think about. The others are Jan Zwicky, Robert Bringhurst and Tim Lilburn who taught me to recognize the identity of poetry and thinking and how to attend to the resonant ecology of things. I am forever grateful for your work, your words, your poetry, your music. A thousand little fungi-shaped bells ring for you.

Fields of fierce green to all the feral creatures in education and beyond, especially those I have been fortunate enough to connect with: David Greenwood, Ramsey Affifi, Derek Rasmussen, Bob Jickling, Joseph Henderson, Kyle Clarke, Greg Scutt, Karen McIver, Leesa Fawcett, Joshua Russell, Rebecca Martusewicz, Richard Kahn, Clayton Pierce, Paul Hart, Phillip Payne, Catherine Hart, Marcia McKenzie, Jackie Seidel, Nicholas Stanger, Greg Lowan-Trudeau, David Hursh, Constance Russell, Julia Ostertag, Alexa Scully, Mitch McLarnon, Sarah Stapleton, Enid Elliot, Marlene Power, Sarah DesRoches, Emily Sadowski, Liz Jackson, Clarence Joldersma, Tyson Lewis, Eduardo Duarte, Jade Ho, Stef Block and Dale Martelli, just to name a few. Much gratitude for scholarship support and inspiration from those in the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia, including John Ozolins, David Beckett, John Quay, Jayne White, Peter Roberts, Tina Besley, Nesta Divine and Michael A. Peters, among others. During the writing of this book I have also been the grateful beneficiary of research funds from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Finally, much respect to series editor Shirley R. Steinberg and a deferent headnod to the late Joe Kincheloe.

To my family and friends, who have had to endure my becoming, this is what I found. Here. Much gratitude to my mother Morag for her immeasurable love; to my father Allan for taking me into the wilderness and showing me how to live kindly; and to my sister Jolaine who is joy and laughing and caring. Both my grandmothers returned to the earth during the writing of this book, Grandma Betsy and Grandma Clare, I love you, I miss you. To my beloved T’selpinek, thank you for coming with me this far, we are only just beginning. You are still my favourite mystery, my heart will ponder you forever. To my little Toby, thank you for teaching me to love small things and for watching over me all these years. Lastly, I would like to acknowledge the flesh these words dance upon, the rivers in our veins and mycelia in our minds, the vibrant processes and rhythms that resonate beneath all this. May we learn to listen. ← x | xi →

some notes on terminology

A note on the use of “we” and other third person pronouns. I often tell students that “we” is the most dangerous word in the English language. Who is we? When I use “we” or any other third person pronoun I am usually referring to those immersed in modern Western ways of thinking. I say this not to further align myself with this tradition, but out of respect for the alterity of primitive communities, Indigenous communities, communities of the Eastern traditions, more-than-human communities and all other communities who have lived and learned, and continue to live and learn, other than we do.

A note on the use of the term “Indigenous.” I would like to avoid reproducing the colonial logic of “pan-Indianism,” which is to say, speaking about Indigenous peoples as if they are a homogenous group with uniform social practices, histories and ontological orientations. With that said, I will respectfully speak of “worldviews,” “knowledges,” and “ways of knowing” that emerge from the wisdom traditions of “Indigenous peoples.” To this end I will evoke the definition provided by Gregory Cajete (1994). The term Indigenous will apply broadly to the many traditional and tribally oriented groups of peoples who are identified with a specific place or region and whose cultural traditions continue to reflect an inherent environmental orientation and sense of sacred ecology. The term Indigenous will also describe the culturally based forms of education that are not primarily rooted in modern Western educational philosophy and methodology (p. 15). ← xi | xii → ← xii | xiii →


how to love black snow


Despite the likely alien and awkward feel of the concepts involved, we might, when hearing a sutra, experience a quite innocent sense of wonder—a brief moment of almost childlike, delightful surprise, perhaps colored by a subtle tone of promise and potential. In line with the teachings set out in this book, we might say that just such a brief clearing within simple, unprepared wonder is what constitutes the awakening of faith in the Great Vehicle.

From the “Translators’ Introduction” to Ornament of the Great Vehicle Sutras:
Maitreya’s Mahayanasutralamakara
(Doctor, 2014, p. vii)

Now little riverbed stones impress upon my bare feet the aggregate intelligence of form and fit, particular trees stand tall in my memory as pedagogically significant, the cheap yellow paint on my pencil peels and reveals flesh—what kind of mushrooms are these? From somewhere deep within the inquiry, beneath the words—how is it possible!—a world approaches. (p. 2)

From chapter one—this is the mystery: meaning


XXIV, 154
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (February)
natural resources ecology mycelium
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. XIII, 154 pp.

Biographical notes

Michael W. Derby (Author)

Michael w. Derby is a teacher, a researcher and occasionally a poet. He works with the Imaginative Education Research Group at Simon Fraser University. His research explores ecocritical pedagogies that inspire caring relationships with the more-than-human world. He also likes long walks in the forest.


Title: Place, Being, Resonance
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181 pages