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Place, Being, Resonance

A Critical Ecohermeneutic Approach to Education


Michael W. Derby

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.
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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...

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