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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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chapter four—metaphor & thinking with this bird


chapter four

metaphor & thinking with this bird

Metaphor is a way of understanding the world; it comes naturally to nearly all language-speakers. Any account that makes it out to be odd or queer in relation to “the norm” is itself odd or queer. We think we need such an account only because we have misconstrued the nature of ‘the norm.’ A good account will be as much a critique of standard Western assumptions about meaning’s relation to language as it will be a positive discussion of metaphor. (Zwicky, 2003, p. L115)

Imagination is neither the language of nature nor the language of man, but both at once, the medium of communication between the two—as if the birds, unable to understand the speech of man, and man, unable to understand the songs of birds, yet longing to communicate, were to agree on a tongue made up of sounds they both could comprehend—the voice of running water perhaps or the wind in the trees. Imagination is the elemental speech in all senses, the first and the last, of primitive man and of the poets. (Goddard, 1951, p. 10)

The education system is one of the pivotal institutions responsible for the reproduction of cultural norms and has thus, by and large, maintained the culture of denial with respect to the consequences of rendering earth a cornucopian storehouse (Bowers, 1997; see also Orr, 1991; Prakash & Esteva, 2008; Gruenewald & Smith, 2008; Jardine,...

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