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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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Advance Praise for Critical Education and Sociomaterial Practice


“In their groundbreaking book, Marcia McKenzie and Andrew Bieler breathe new life into the practice of critical education. Their cogent analyses of criticality through the frameworks of social and ecological education revive the intersection as a meaningful and generative space. They carry this approach through their careful, ethnographic work across diverse school settings in a way that brings new meaning and shape to how we understand critical education as an engaged, embodied, and emplaced practice. This book is a must-read for all educators seeking to support students as the critical interlocutors of their own lives, and provides hope for everyone searching for more meaningful approaches to relational solidarity and collective action.”

—Sandy Grande, Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Connecticut College

“Marcia McKenzie and Andrew Bieler make a crucial step toward addressing the urgent need to invent alter-narratives for what educators take to be ‘critical education.’ In response to mounting evidence that many of our material practices for living as humans on this planet are not viable—including many practices of education—McKenzie and Bieler steer us away from oversimplified accounts of ‘agency’ and ‘critical practice’ that have dominated discourses of critical education. They turn us toward concepts and stories that can assist us in attuning our pedagogical imaginations and projects to emerging material conditions of the Anthropocene.”

—Elizabeth Ellsworth, Professor of Media Studies, The New School University

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