A Critical Posthumanist Orientation in Higher Education
About the Project
This project examines how agential realism, posthumanism and new materialism could contribute towards a reconfiguration of childhood in the design and content of postqualitative, postcolonial curricula and research projects. It brings together national and international members from all disciplines including the creative arts, humanities, medicine, law, social and natural sciences. The transdisciplinary focus is on how the concepts of child and childhood include and exclude, and continue to marginalise not only young humans, but also early childhood scholars in academia and whole nations and continents (e.g., Africa). Members of this collective investigate how postqualitative frameworks grounded in agential realism, posthumanism and new materialism can engage differently with the so-called ‘missing peoples’ of both humanism and posthumanism, and inform de/colonising post developmental theories and practices in all phases of education. At the heart of this project is the notion of a childlike education in an effort to de/colonise (higher) education. Since 2016, the project has supported many masters and doctoral researchers successfully and has generated a plethora of publications, including multimedia publications, peer reviewed papers, chapters and books (see resources). It has also hosted various members in South Africa, including Karen Barad, Fikile Nxumalo, Affrica Taylor, Karen Malone and many more virtually. More than 40 team members intra-act, share and collaborate with each other through reading groups, developing grant proposals, co-supervising, conference presentations, colloquia, writing workshops, and other collaborative initiatives. Social media and synchronous virtual meeting spaces enable ongoing collaboration across continents and geopolitical spaces.
After the demise of apartheid, higher education has been concerned with gender, race, class, sexuality, and ability but little attention has been paid as yet to age as a category of exclusion. In particular the concepts of child and childhood have not been included in decolonial discourses about the transformation of educational spaces and curricula. Despite decades of sustained academic critique and contestation in early childhood research, current programmes of study globally and the pedagogies promoted in their courses still tend to assume the essentialised, universal western child who develops according to a stage-like linear process of formation according to his/her/their innate potential (developmentalism).
Moreover, the concept ‘child’ tends to refer to a chronological child-being in the world and childhood as a phase in a human being's life with little or no relevance for pedagogies and methodologies in higher education. Some power-producing binaries continue to do their damaging exclusionary work, such as Culture/Nature, Adult/Child, Higher Education/Early Childhood Education. The DECD project continues to de(con)struct notions such ‘Indigenous’, ‘postcolonial’ and ‘decolonising’ by troubling unilinear temporalities and a meta/physics of individualism. Theorising difference differently opens up these (and other) concepts to include young children’s animistic philosophising and material-discursive non/sense making. Natureculture philosophies are urgently needed in the (controversially) termed Anthropocene - the geological time of a human-damaged planet as the result of global industrial capitalism, the standardisation of universal time, the mechanisation of labour and the extraction of fossil fuels.
The DECD project provides caring intellectual spaces - both face to face and virtual, for philosophers, theorists and practitioners to intra-ract across diverse geographical contexts to engage in enquiry and deliberation about agential realism, posthumanism, new materialism and the impact that these philosophies have for de/colonising early childhood, in particular developing approaches which have resonance for southern perspectives and contexts. One of the critiques that posthumanism is based on is the unproblematised western character of knowledges - white, male, heterosexual, able - which are assumed to be applicable in all contexts and which have been used to subjugate other knowledge practices in their dominance. What sets this project apart is its interest also in how posthumanism itself tends to ignore how age is often overlooked in its theorising. The researchers on this project are acutely aware of these knowledge practices and one of the objectives of the project is to investigate and problematise knowledges from both Northern and Southern contexts, to trouble adult-centrism, with an eye on developing and evaluating postcolonial posthumanist frameworks to innovativepedagogies, research practices and academic programmes in all phases of education.