Posthuman approaches

Posthuman theories have rapidly risen to prominence across all disciplines in response to escalating ecological challenges and the imperative to find new ways to bring human and natural systems together in language, thought and action. Posthuman approaches aim to de-centre the human being in order to envisage the human as co-constituted with the more-than-human world. These new frameworks draw on contemporary philosophy to disrupt the separation of nature and culture, the 'nature/culture binary' in Western thought (see Bennett, 2010; Colebrook, 2010; Grosz, 2008; Haraway, 2008; Barad, 2007). These approaches are only rarely seen in primary school education, possibly because of the constraints of the crowded school curriculum and pressures of standardised testing.

Finnish researcher Pauliina Rautio has conducted several studies using posthuman approaches with children of primary school age in informal settings. She has observed the ways that children seem to disrupt the nature/culture binary themselves. They may not need special equipment to do this, but may need adults 'to take seriously the things and actions with which they encounter their worlds anyway, things called toys, or stones' (Rautio, 2013b, p. 396). Children appear abundantly in Rautio's project in which 12 Finnish children, aged four to seven, gathered once a week to assist an adult researcher in studying 'things, objects and beings'. These children were provided with small, plain wooden boxes with lids and instructed to bring these boxes to research meetings, filled with whatever they chose and whatever would fit in the box. Children led the way in this research but rather than this being imagined as an individual exercise of human agency, it was considered through the concept of intra-activity, as a process of 'countless and thoroughly entwined encounters in which all kinds of entities come into being in relation to each other' (Rautio, 2013a, p. 3).

Early childhood researchers are leading the application of these frameworks in educational research. This includes new materialities research (mainly in Scandinavia), multispecies ethnographies (Australia and Canada) and indigenous-informed research influenced by the New Zealand bicultural curriculum. New materialities research draws mainly on the work of philosopher of physics Karen Barad and is applied in understanding the ways that young children are shaped by their intra-actions with the material world (see Rautio, 2013a; 2013b; Rossholt, 2012; Hultman & Lenz-Taguchi, 2010; Lenz-Taguchi, 2010). The Common World Childhoods Research Collective is an interdisciplinary international research collective with a focus upon more-than- human childhood relations. Drawing on the work of Donna Haraway, among others, the key researchers Affrica Taylor, Veronica Pacini- Ketchabaw and Mindy Blaise are involved in collaborative projects using multi-species ethnography (Taylor & Pacini-Ketchabaw, 2015; Taylor, Blaise, & Giugni, 2013; Taylor, Pacini-Ketchabaw, & Blaise, 2012). The early childhood studies, arising from the bicultural New Zealand early childhood curriculum, Te Whariki, are informed by both Maori indigenous concepts and contemporary Western posthuman frameworks (see Duhn, 2012a; 2012b; Ritchie, 2012). Indigenous knowledge frameworks commonly originate in cultural understandings in which there is no binary structure of thought and maintain the traces of non-binary thinking in contemporary cultural practices (Somerville, 2013a). Bringing these into conversation with new Western onto- epistemologies is an important strand of research in the scholarship of the Anthropocene. These studies and their application will be further examined in the chapter 'Emergent literacies' in order to understand the ways that new imaginings of the child emerge in these frameworks.

 
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