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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 6. Practice Makes Practice in Education: Pedagogy, Policy, and Research


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The last decade has been marked by resource wars, economic crises, and increasing ecological disaster that exacerbate racial divisions, legacies of colonization, and global migration patterns. This is the complex and rapidly shifting milieu in which the millennial generation is coming of age, trying to make sense of their own agency and obligations in a world of deepening inequality, diminished expectations, and perpetual crisis. We have suggested that in part, necessary responses involve shifts in cultural structures of feeling through the building and strengthening of alternative shared narratives and practices. We have not, nor would we wish to, propose exactly what such emergent cultures might look like (Williams, 1961; see also McKenzie, 2008). However, we can point to particular ethical imperatives in shaping the emergent. As Karen Barad (2012) wrote,

Responsibility, then, is a matter of the ability to respond. Listening for the response of the other and obligation to the other, who is not entirely separate from what we call the self. This way of thinking ontology, epistemology, and ethics together makes for a world that is always already an ethical matter. (p. 69)

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