UCT Inaugural Lecture
The Inaugural lecture on the ‘Posthuman child: Reconfiguring the human and educational relationality in all phases of education’ by Professor Karin Murris
IN her manifesto, Professor Karin Murris stirs up trouble in various philosophical ways. She does this through a political reading of ‘the’ present (a genealogy) of the ways in which concepts such as time, childhood, knowledge and education have been shaped (often subconsciously) and continue to be shaped by philosophical theories and practices. Drawing on her book The Posthuman Child (2016), her focus is on how educational theories and practices assume that children are (still) developing, (still) innocent, (still) fragile, (still) immature, (still) irrational and so forth. In many ways, education involves the subordination and discrimination of humans who are not regarded as fully human…yet. They are wild, uncivilized savages, who are of Nature and need Culture to become civilized.
The terms ‘coloniser’ and ‘colonised’ take on a double meaning in the context of childhood. Whether childhood is constructed as a phase in the life cycle of a human life, or a species, or a nation, chronological improvement to independence, autonomy and rationality is assumed, that is, the logic and temporality of colonialism.
The concept of progress makes it possible to describe, explain, predict and control the ‘lesser’ human and prepares them for a capitalist economic workforce. Murris argues passionately for the need to decolonise education by decentering the human, reconfiguring subjectivity, thereby offering a different ontological adult:child relationality. The medium of her manifesto is an animated cartoon, created by editorial cartoonist Brandan Reynolds.
In the second part of the presentation, two colleagues – Rose-Anne Reynolds and Joanne Peers – join her and together they give a flavour of their decolonising teaching at the School of Education at the University of Cape Town. They draw on an article they published about their work, which can be downloaded for free and read as background to their talk: https://journals.uvic.ca/index.php/jcs/article/view/18262
It shows how to put into practice the pedagogical implications of the philosophical dust raised by the animated cartoon in the first part. Working posthuman(e)ly and transdisciplinarily across three foundation phases, they situate their teaching within current environmental precarities.
They show how as teacher educators they stirred up trouble in and outside their university classroom and provoked their students to “make kin” with children, each other, other animals, and the more-than-human, but also to stay with the trouble, that is, to learn to be truly present in colonised spaces.
They thereby also put their own selves as humans at stake through pedagogical work that assumes a different educational relationality involving the nonhuman.
They hope that sharing their work offers an imagery of what is possible when education shifts radically to embrace a relational ontology, thereby creating different epistemic and ethical relationships to time, space, truth and matter in teaching by troubling the boundaries between adult/child, nature/culture and past/present/future.