Candace R. Kuby, PhD - University of Missouri, USA
Jennifer Rowsell, PhD – Brock University, Canada
Tara Gutshall Rucker, MA – Columbia Public Schools teacher, Missouri, USA
The dominant focus of educational scholarship is on issues of epistemology, how we come to know, specifically in relation to teaching and learning. However, there is an ontological movement happening in the wider social science research community around metaphysics, which focuses on issues of truth(s) and reality(ies). In particular, there is a movement to put to work (as methodologies) theories and philosophies that focus on ‘more than human ontologies’ (Jackson & Mazzei, 2012; St. Pierre, 2011). This posthumanist movement is referred to by several names such as feminist materialism (Alaimo & Hekman, 2008; Barad, 2007; 2008), new materialism (Coole & Frost, 2010), and indigenous ways of knowing and being (Tuck 2015; Rosiek, 2015). In the field of education, researchers of mathematics (De Freitas & Sinclair, 2014) and most prominently early childhood education (Davies, 2014; Hultman & Lenz Taguchi, 2010; Lenz Taguchi, 2010; Somerville & Green, 2015) are at the forefront of this posthumanist movement in education.
Feminist physicist, Karen Barad (2007), calls her theory that focuses on the intra-activity of humans and non-humans, agential realism theory which is an “epistemological, ontological, and ethical” framework that focuses on the intra-active nature of humans and non-humans agentically co-creating realities (Barad, 2007, p. 32). Agential realism de-centers the human as the focus of analysis and the origin of all knowing and instead focuses on the intra-activity of humans and non-humans. Barad states, “by posthumanist I mean to signal the crucial recognition that nonhumans play an important role in naturalcultural practices, including everyday social practices, scientific practices, and practices that do not include humans” (2007, p. 32). This philosophical and paradigmatic shift effects/affects both practices and pedagogies in classrooms as well as research methodologies and methods. The interest in more than human ontologies lies in understanding the intra-actions or agentic-in-between-ness of humans and non-humans. Reality is about more than humans. This is a paradigmatic shift.
However, agential realism is not a new concept as Rosiek (2015) discusses the ways that others have explored similar ontological theorizing such as indigenous studies scholars who write about the “agency of matter, objects, land, animals, collectives, stories, and other non-human entities” and even American pragmatist philosophers who “critiqued a linguistic nominalism that located all meaning within the human activity of representation” (pp. 1 & 2). Tuck (2015) encourages scholars to consider the ways Native Americans were already thinking from a posthumanist stance before the recent material turn. For example, Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley discussed indigenous knowledge systems and ‘more than human ontologies’ in his writings.
As stated above, in the field of early childhood education, recent scholarship has focused on posthumanist theories as pedagogies and methodologies of research. However, within literacy research, specifically early literacy, there is less scholarship that puts to work posthumanist theories (Kuby & Gutshall Rucker, 2015, 2016; Thiel, 2015). For example, keyword searches in the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy for “posthuman” and “intra-action” produce zero articles. While searching for the word “material” yields more results, a close reading indicates that only one article discusses materials from a posthumanist stance (Kuby, Gutshall, & Kirchhofer, 2015). While multimodal and multiliteracies scholars discuss materiality (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000; Kress, 1997; New London Group, 1996), the focus is on what humans do to materials in literacy learning. The focus is on intentional designs or end products that humans create, not so much on the rhizomatic, processes of in-the-moment becoming with materials (Leander & Boldt, 2013). The former is paradigmatically different from a posthumanist view of materials and humans intra-actively entangled together.
Posthumanist theory is important in early literacy research because it builds on the linguistic turn yet embraces a material turn (Barad, 2007; 2008). The focus of posthumanist research is not logocentric (language, words) nor anthropocentric (humans) but on the human and non-human intra-actions (Hultman & Lenz Taguchi, 2010). Posthumanist theory has potential to help educators reconceptualize literacy research in the following ways: de-center the human and focus on the intra-active nature of humans and non-humans (i.e., materials, time, space, nature, environment); focus on the newness produced in entanglement of intra-actions; and shift our attention from a focus on epistemology to ethico-onto-epistemology (doing, knowing, and being entangled). Posthumanist scholarship has not seeped into early literacy research. Therefore, we seek proposals for manuscripts in this special issue of the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy that focuses attention on early literacy and the posthuman.
Our vision for this special issue is to provide a diverse set of articles, from international educators (both emerging and established) to help early literacy educators imagine possibilities for posthumanist theory as pedagogy and methodology. We invite the authors to consider these questions as inspiration:
- How does an ethico-onto-epistemological perspective, a paradigmatic shift from interpretative social sciences, effect/affect pedagogies and methodologies?
- How has posthumanist theory influenced your teaching ßà learning of literacies with young children? What are tensions and possibilities of putting this theoretical perspective to work as pedagogy?
- How has posthumanist theory shaped your research methodologies (i.e., data production, transcription, data analysis, and writing up or (re)presentation of research)? What are tensions and possibilities of putting this theoretical perspective to work as methodology?
- What do early childhood literacy educators need to think about as social science research moves beyond a linguistic turn to a material turn?
- What are the ethics of doing (living out) posthumanist theory?
- Why is a posthumanist view of early literacy education needed?
Timeline for Proposed Manuscripts
The special issue will be composed of several invited pieces as well as manuscripts invited from this call. Contributions need not take the form of traditional discursive academic articles – we are interested in submissions that play-and-write-with-theory. All submissions will be subject to peer review.
Due Dates & Tasks:
April 1, 2016- Proposed title, abstract (500 words), and bios of authors (100 words for each author) due. Guest editors will review the abstracts and invite a select number to write full manuscripts for the deadline below. Submit abstract, title, and bios in one PDF file to firstname.lastname@example.org
May 15, 2016- Decision notification from guest editors.
October 31, 2016- Manuscripts due to guest editors
February 1, 2017- Feedback to authors from editors and reviewers
April 15, 2017- Revisions due
September 2017- Publication of special issue
Contact Candace Kuby