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Critical Education and Sociomaterial Practice

Narration, Place, and the Social


Marcia McKenzie and Andrew Bieler

Critical Education and Sociomaterial Practice presents a situated approach to learning that suggests the need for more explicit attention to sociomaterial practice in critical education. Specifically, it explores social, place and narrative dimensions of practical experience as they unfold in schools, in place-based learning, and teacher education contexts. Such an orientation to practice both links social and material conditions (social relations, other species, physical context, objects) to human consciousness and learning, and considers the relationship between such learning and broader cultural change. The core of the book is an examination of critical situated learning undertaken through three separate empirical studies, each of which we use to elaborate a particular domain or dimension of practical experience. In turning to the sociomaterial contexts of learning, the book also underscores how social and environmental issues are necessarily linked, such as in the production of food deserts in cities or in the pollution of the drinking water in Indigenous communities through oil development. More social movements globally are connecting the dots between sexism, heteronormativity, racism, colonization, White privilege, globalization, poverty, and climate justice, including with issues of land, territory and sovereignty, water, food, energy, and treatment and extinction of other species. As a result, categorizing some concerns as ‘social justice’ or ‘critical’ issues and others as ‘environmental,’ becomes increasingly untenable. The book thus suggests that more integrative and productive forms of critical education are needed to respond to these complex and pressing socio-ecological conditions.
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Chapter 5. Narration as Assemblage: Storytelling and Performance with Digital Media


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Narration as a dimension of practical experience includes the diverse ways in which we make meaning, develop a sense of self and/or collective identity in everyday life, from dancing in a street protest, to retelling a story to a peer. “We read and understand our everyday life and interaction the same way we read and understand stories” (Hatavara, Hydén, & Hyvärinen, 2013, p. 4). We work with an understanding of narrative as enabled by assemblages of human and more-than-human actors and as unfolding in the interwoven spaces between everyday experience and language (e.g., body language, speech, media), as both materiality and representation.

In this chapter, we inquire into the educative potentiality of acts of narration, and in particular, how the blurred boundaries between saying and doing can shape the learner in subtle, intimate, and profound ways. In speaking of narration as a kind of action or practice, we mean that narrative not only has a descriptive dimension of re-presenting what we have done in dialogue with others and in relation to past experience, fiction, or history; it is also performative in that the telling itself does something to us, our relations to others, and to more-than-human places. When we describe ourselves or our communities, for example, we are also producing them through that description. Just as we sense that repeating negative perceptions of oneself embeds ← 91 | 92 → those...

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