Animal Encounters in Environmental Education Research: Responding to the Question of the Animal

Please download to get full document.

View again

of 17
All materials on our website are shared by users. If you have any questions about copyright issues, please report us to resolve them. We are always happy to assist you.
Information Report

How To, Education & Training


Views: 0 | Pages: 17

Extension: PDF | Download: 0

Related documents
Animal Encounters in Environmental Education Research: Responding to the Question of the Animal
  86Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 15, 2010 Animal Encounters in Environmental Education Research:Responding to the ÒQuestion of the AnimalÓ Jan Oakley, Lakehead University, Canada; Gavan P. L. Watson, York University, Canada; Constance L. Russell, Lakehead University, Canada; Amy Cutter-Mackenzie, Monash University, Australia; Leesa Fawcett, York University, Canada; Gail Kuhl, Lakehead University, Canada; Joshua Russell, York University, Canada; Marlon van der Waal, Wageningen University, The Netherlands; Traci Warkentin, Hunter College, United States Abstract  The “question of the animal” represents an area of emergent interest in the envi-ronmental education field, as researchers critically consider human-animal rela-tions and animal advocacy in their work. Following a group discussion at the 10th  Seminar in Health and Environmental Education Research, the authors of this  paper share experiences, challenges, and insights related to disrupting the human/ animal divide, conducting respectful research involving nonhuman animals, and  producing research that moves beyond Western humanism and aims to make a difference to the more-than-human world.  Résumé  La « question animale » constitue un nouveau champ d’intérêt dans le domaine de l’éducation environnementale, où les chercheurs examinent d’un œil critique les relations entre les humains et les animaux ainsi que la défense des droits des animaux. À la suite d’une discussion de groupe lors du colloque intitulé 10 th  Seminar in Health and Environmental Education Research  (10 e  colloque sur la recherche en éducation relative à la santé et à l’environnement), les auteurs de l’article exposent expériences, défis et réflexions par rapport au bouleversement du clivage entre l’humain et l’animal, aux tests respectueux sur des animaux non-humains et à l’élaboration de recherches transcendant l’humanisme occidental et visant à améliorer la situation de ce monde qui est beaucoup plus que seulement humain.  Keywords: animal studies, human-animal relations, environmental education research  87Animal Encounters in Environmental Education Research Ottawa River, Montebello, QuŽbec Figure 1. Canada goose.  © 2008 Gavan P.L. Watson They numbered in the hundreds, and if you could count all of the migrants along the length of the Ottawa River, there were likely thousands of them. Canada Geese floated in rafts of dozens, some coming close to the side of the river, but most hundreds of metres away. The river here is more like a lake: over a kilometre wide, and seemingly endless in its length, giving the geese ample room to spread out. Regardless of their density, they could be easily heard: their characteristic honks permeated the air and collapsed the space between their physical presence and our own.The geese were here, in early May 2009, as part of the migratory popula-tion of geese that overwinter in south-eastern North America and nest on the tundra of the eastern Arctic. Over the course of the three days spent beside the Ottawa River, the geese flocked up and dissipated; this morning, calls and the whooshing of wings grew in volume as a long line of birds approached and flew overhead, continuing their annual journey to breeding grounds.In the same low morning sun alongside the Ottawa River and underneath the organic lines of departing birds, we, a group of environmental education researchers invited to the 10 th  Seminar in Health and Environmental Education Research, sat in a circle. 1   Eager to blur the lines that have so often been drawn between the human and more-than-human world (Abram, 1996)—and inter-ested as well in enjoying the beautiful morning by the river—we opted to meet outdoors for our discussion. There, with geese honking overhead, we ruminated on a topic of interest to all of us:  How can we move beyond the human in environ-mental education research ?  2  88Jan Oakley et al. Making a Difference The theme of the three-day seminar was Making a Difference: The Oppor-tunities for and Challenges of Producing “Useful” Research . The seminar call stated that “Ensuring our research makes a difference to others and to wider society is not a straightforward task,” and as participants, we were asked to contemplate how our contributions as researchers and practitioners could be useful to those outside a circle of like-minded academics. While the concept of making a difference and producing useful research is an important aim for all research endeavours, some tricky considerations emerge when this is con-sidered in relation to nonhuman animals—beings who have so pervasively been positioned in the category “Other” in Western, Eurocentric systems of knowledge. 3  The Othering of animals is being addressed in the emergent field of ani-mal studies, where scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds are engaging with the problematic ways Western culture has cast aside, first intel-lectually and then materially, the animal. Paola Cavalieri (2004) suggests that this core “animal question” equates to an interrogation of “more than twenty centuries of philosophical tradition aiming at excluding from the ethical do-main members of species other than our own” (p. 3), while Cary Wolfe (2003) defines it as “the relationship between...the discourse of animality—the use of that constellation of signifiers to structure how we address others of whatever sort (not just non-human animals)—and the living and breathing creatures who fall outside the taxonomy of  Homo sapiens ” (p. xx). After a long-standing reluctance to question the barriers that have been erected between humans and other animals, the work of interrogating taken-for-granted assumptions has begun within, and outside of, environmental education research.   Historically, nonhuman animals were rarely studied outside of positivist, “objective” scientific frames (Noske, 1997). In recent years, however, schol-arly work exploring the animal question has emerged from the social sciences and humanities, forming an animal studies network with trajectories across disciplines. As a field, animal studies cannot be defined along strict disciplin-ary lines, as theoretical work has been taken up in the fields of geography (Wolch, 1998), literary theory (Wolfe, 2003), history (Creager & Jordan, 2002; Preece, 1999, 2005), humane education (Kahn & Humes, 2009; Humes, 2008; Selby, 1995; Weil, 2004), feminism (Donovan & Adams, 2007), anthropology (Haraway, 2008; Knight, 2005; Noske, 1997), philosophy (Plumwood, 2002; Singer, 1975; Reagan, 1983), and cultural studies (Castricano, 2008; Fudge, 2002; Rothfels, 2002). What holds these works together is the shared belief that the clear-cut distinction between humans and animals is anything but precise. Given the interdisciplinary nature of animal studies and the socioeco-logical turn the general environmental education field has taken (Gruenewald,  89Animal Encounters in Environmental Education Research 2003), it is not surprising that environmental education researchers are also grappling with the animal question. Attempts to move beyond Western frames of anthropocentric humanism and toward non-dualistic modes of conceptual-izing the more-than-human world are key concepts within the field, and this recent turn includes engaging with the complex set of relations we hold with other species. Nonetheless, our morning discussion at Montebello seemed to signal a deepening interest in the field in engaging with the implications of the shifting boundaries of the “animal.” In response to the conversation, Connie Russell noted: As someone who has been working in environmental and humane education and human/animal relations for almost 20 years, I was delighted to see the level of inter-est in the session on the animal question in environmental education research at Montebello. For those who have attended numerous Seminars over the years, the response was striking and points to an area of emerging importance in our field. At present, there is a range of ways that environmental education research-ers are incorporating a critical consideration of other species in their work. Within the small circle of the nine authors of this paper, for example, research related to human-animal relations has included studies of the educational as-pects of wildlife-focused tourism (e.g., Russell, 1995; Russell & Hodson, 2002), whale agency and human-dolphin relations in Sea World, Orlando (Warkentin & Fawcett, in press; Warkentin, 2009), musher-sled dog relations in Northwestern Ontario and Minnesota (Kuhl, in press), children’s ideas and stories of common, wild Canadian animals (Fawcett, 2002), anthropocentrism and animal dissec-tion (Oakley, 2007; 2009), the role that wild animals play in the formation of a pro-environmental ethic (Watson, 2006), and critical reflections on pedagogical attempts to draw attention to the needs and perspectives of animals (Bell & Rus-sell, 1999; Bell, Russell, & Plotkin, 1998; Fawcett, Bell, & Russell, 2002; Russell, 2009). While there is considerable diversity in the ways we are framing and approaching our research questions, we are connected by our overarching com-mitment to position other species as subjective stakeholders in our work and as beings for whom our research matters.In this article we share themes, stories, and points of discussion that emerged from our conversation at the seminar. Each co-author contributed a written response to this paper, outlining some of the ways they are troubling the human/animal/nature divide, incorporating a critical stance on human-animal relations in their work, encountering the challenges of producing respectful research that involves the more-than-human world, and ultimately, aiming to make a difference.  90Jan Oakley et al. Figure 2. The “flock” of authors and participants, reporting back to the larger group following our conversation. Troubling the Divide How might we erase the dichotomy that plays the social against the environ-mental? One of the themes emerging from our discussion concerned the im-portance of blurring the boundaries between “human,” “animal,” and “nature,” as well as the need to question our own animality and the knowledge we (pre-sume to) hold of animal others. The constructed dualism between humans and other animals—and more generally, between humans and nature—is pervasive in Western culture; through it, nature is positioned as separate and distinct from our everyday lives and experiences (Evernden, 1992; Plumwood, 2002). Neil Evernden (1992) referred to this as a form of “organic apartheid,” writing that once we recognize and accept that all life is organically and evolutionarily re-lated, the core fiction of this dichotomy will be exposed.For many scholars and practitioners in environmental education, this fic-tional divide is well-recognized and the field itself is, in part, a response to so-ciety’s impoverished understanding of the more-than-human world (Fawcett, 2002). For researchers engaging with the question of the animal, the need to problematize this division is prominent. Leesa Fawcett suggests the very as-sumption that we have stable knowledge about these categories and their divid-ing lines is problematic. She calls for a different ontological arrangement of the world, one where the boundaries are less strict than once imagined.   Drawing on Donna Haraway’s (2008) understanding of “naturecultures,” she writes: The thing about naturecultures is that it assumes humans-animals-cultures are not divided to begin with. We might be one glorious, endless continuity that allows seepage into each other, or that differentiates at points and breaks off abruptly, or swerves together connected but out of everyone’s sight over the horizon. I figure
View more...
We Need Your Support
Thank you for visiting our website and your interest in our free products and services. We are nonprofit website to share and download documents. To the running of this website, we need your help to support us.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support.

No, Thanks