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Babble or something worse?

📥  Comment, New Publications

I got this the other day about a special issue of EER: New Materialisms and Environmental Education

This is part of what it said:

In New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency & Politics, Coole and Frost (2010) argue that contemporary environmental, economic, geopolitical, and technological developments require novel articulations of nature, agency, and social and political relationships, and that means of inquiry that privilege consciousness and subjectivity are not sufficient for the task.

New materialisms, a term that covers diverse theories, generally posit that the social sciences in the last several decades have paid particular attention to subjectivity at the expense of considering matter due to a perceived inaccessibility of the material world.  New materialist theories attempt to take up the ostensibly neglected philosophy of matter by finding new means to express the ways in which the world relates to itself.  New materialisms, for example, ask questions about what agency is and where it is located; the relationship between matter and discourse; the axiomatic distinctions between what is ‘natural’ and what is human or human derived; as well as the possibilities of expanding the concept of ‘life’ beyond the solely organic, as in Jane Bennett’s (2009) vibrant materialism and materially informed contemporary animism (Harvey, 2013).

The notion of troubling established dualisms, particularly nature/culture, will appear familiar to environmental education theorists.  For instance, there may be a general troubling of the concepts that are often taken, ontologically, as relatively stable in developing policy, theory and research approaches.  However, new materialisms attempt to move past negative critique of dualisms, essentialism and transcendence to posit new ways of envisioning reality and matter, often as vibrant, animate, creative, immanent and connectable and conceivable in new ways.  This move often calls for attention to metaphysics, with theorists articulating forms of protean monism, speculative and agential realisms and ontologies of becoming (e.g. Barad, 2007; Bryant, Srnicek & Harman, 2011; Connolly, 2013).

However, the taking up of new materialisms is not merely a retreat into obscure philosophy. The diverse and divergent theoretical approaches that may be called new materialist often seek to explore the political effects of problematising the matter of fact ways in which we think of the world; troubling our pregiven ontologies. This process of critically considering established assumptions, modes of thought and methods of inquiry against ‘new’ theory has been characterized as an essential task in the face of driving ethical imperatives related to social and environmental justice and the commodification of research methods (St Pierre, Jackson & Mazzei, 2016).

Subsequently, new materialist theory has been identified as an emerging ‘route’ for environmental education. In Environmental Education Research, for instance Van Poeck and Lysgaard (2016, p.314) articulate how, amongst other approaches, claims of new materialists to operate beyond the strictly discursive may ‘offer relevant and inspiring ideas, concepts, frameworks and findings to ESE policy research as well as the broader field of educational research’.  Concurrently the new materialisms have been characterised as a new ‘movement of thought’ for outdoor environmental education research (Gough, 2016) as well as a theoretical area that might hold potential for interrogating various ‘absences and silences’ within environmental education research (Payne, 2016).

We see an emerging focus on the new materialisms in environmental education scholarship, putting diverse theory to work in consideration of prevailing educational practices and research (e.g.: Adsit-Morris, 2017; Clarke, 2017; Clarke & Mcphie, 2014, 2016; Gannon, 2017; Lynch & Mannion, 2016; Lysgaard & Fjeldsted, 2015; Malone, 2016; Mannion, Fenwick & Lynch, 2013; Mcphie & Clarke, 2015; McKenzie & Bieler, 2016; Rautio, 2014; Ross & Mannion, 2012; Sonu & Snaza, 2015). This Special Issue will take up some of the themes explored by these authors and encourage new work that focuses on the potential of new materialisms and materially informed research approaches for contributing to discussions of theory and research in environmental education.

We are aware of the broad perspectives within the new materialisms and see this Special Issue as appealing to diverse approaches and theory. It provides an opportunity to discuss the relevance of new materialisms to environmental education research and practice and to begin to articulate what environmental education inquiry and theory may in turn contribute to materially concerned thought in broader educational fields and beyond. Thus through this Special Issue, we hope to encourage engagement with these stimulating theories and that the SI acts as a confluence and catalyst for discussion and the further seeking of critical and ethical approaches to research and practice in environmental education.

[ there's a lot more like this ... ]


There's no question that this is babble, but is it more (ie, worse) than that?  The "the taking up of new materialisms is not merely a retreat into obscure philosophy" point suggests that the editors understand the problems of communicating these ideas, even if they can do nothing about it.

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