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Relational Ontologies

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Barbara Thayer-Bacon

Relational Ontologies uses the metaphor of a fishing net to represent the epistemological and ontological beliefs that we weave together for our children, to give meaning to their experiences and to help sustain them in their lives. The book describes the epistemological threads we use to help determine what we catch up in our net as the warp threads, and our ontological threads as the weft threads. It asks: what kind of fishing nets are we weaving for our children to help them make sense of their experiences? What weft threads are we including and working to strengthen, and what threads are we removing or leaving out? It is important to carefully re/examine these most basic ways of catching up what sustains us in our ocean of infinite experiences, as the threads we weave for our children will determine what they catch up in their nets, until they are old enough to re/weave their own. Relational Ontologies reweaves America’s epistemological and ontological fishing net on a larger scale, turning to indigenous cultures and diverse spiritual beliefs for assistance in reforming American schools.

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Preface

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I teach a “Feminist Theories and Education” course for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), which I developed originally with a feminist epistemological focus from my own research interests in feminist epistemologies. I use Relational “(e)pistemologies” as one of the texts in that course, along with Women’s Ways of Knowing; Knowledge, Difference, and Power; and Education Feminism.1 In Relational “(e)pistemologies,” I develop a theory of knowing that is supported by the classic pragmatists and gender feminists, with other influences from radical feminists, indigenous scholars, and postmodernists.2 By “relation” I mean to emphasize connection to others, including other people and ideas. The connection is transactional in that we affect each other, dynamically and functionally, and each is changed as a result.3 As Martin Buber described this transactional quality, relations are mutual.4

In Relational “(e)pistemologies,” I develop a theory of knowing that is supported by the classic pragmatists and gender feminists, with other influences from radical feminists, indigenous scholars, and postmodernists. I argue that none of us can know what is True or Real, in a universal sense, and so we must all be content to continue to talk about “knowledge” and “reality” with quotation marks around the terms. This is why I put ( ) around the “e” in epistemology and refer to traditional Epistemology with a capital “E”—due ← ix | x → to its assumption of Absolute Truth. I offer an epistemological theory that insists that knowers/subjects are fallible, that our criteria are corrigible, and that...

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