Becoming-with leaf-puddle: blurring the boundaries of place-based pedagogies

This blog is emerging from walks that have taken place in Noongar Country where I am walking-with and thinking-with Gabbiljee. It picks up where my previous blog ends; thinking with and about an encounter with leaf-puddle as it continues to prompt diffractive patterns of thought about otherwise place-based pedagogies.    

Image: Attending to the specific details of the relational entanglements that are emerging from within leaf-puddle prompts diffractive thought. Leaf-puddle, along with raindrops, wind, sunlight and more, helps one to notice the blurring and shifting of boundaries that exist in the in-between of this entanglement.     

During my walks, thinking-with the concept of relationality is a deliberate practice that shifts my attention towards the specific relational entanglements of Place. This conscious and intentional attunement to detail opens up the possibility of thinking-with Place in unexpected ways. It causes diffractive patterns of thinking about Place-children relations and triggers a sense of hope for re-storying how early childhood place-based pedagogies play out in schools today. Not thinking with the concept of relationality, would likely have meant that the details of leaf-puddle would have gone unnoticed. My colonial sensorium (Myers, 2017) would likely have brushed over this pivotal moment in a quest to try to know Place and all that Place might offer to early childhood education. Noticing leaf-puddle is pivotal because leaf-puddle is now co-researcher in this story. Without leaf-puddle, all that would have come from this story is a mere reflection of what is already there.  

Thinking-with (rather than about) leaf-puddle opens up possibilities for thinking about what might emerge when Place and researcher (or educator) become co-creators of knowledge. What might happen if thinking is understood to emerge from within Place-human encounters and not solely from within the human? Thinking-with the in-between means no longer thinking about Place and human as separate subjects with definite and pre-existing spatial and temporal boundaries. Binary ontologies that separate the knower from the known are no longer helpful; a shift towards an entangled ontology is needed (Barad, 2007).  

Barad’s theory of agential realism invites one to think with an entangled ontology where researcher (or educator) and Place do not pre-exist but are in a constant state of becoming-with one another. The multiple parts of leaf-puddle can be described as being in a state of emerging intra-actions. Intra-action (not to be confused with interaction) is a concept put forward by Barad (2007), that describes how all matter (both human and more-than-human) are continuously becoming-with the world (Barad, 2007; Haraway, 2016). This means that neither leaf nor raindrop nor leaf-puddle proceeds the other; this encounter only emerges because each part of the entanglement allows it to be. Any change in any part of an entanglement will shift what is becoming. This can be seen in the way that the uptake of wind affects the movement of leaf-puddle, causing diffractive patterns of light within puddle.  

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Image:  Leaf-puddle is emerging as leaf-puddle because all aspects of leaf-puddle are allowing this to happen.    There are no distinct boundaries between leaf, veins, raindrop, puddle, sunlight and wind; it is not clear where one ends and another begins. The use of a hyphen between leaf-puddle is a deliberate practice that emphasises the impossibility of knowing where leaf and puddle begin and end. 

Deliberately paying attention to the diffractive patterns of light and water made by wind highlights the impossibility of defining a boundary between the different parts of this entanglement. Each part of this entanglement matters. It is becoming into being only because each part of this specific entanglement is making it happen. Donna Haraway (2016) would say that each organism within this entanglement is in sympoiesis with one another; neither organism has a defined spatial or temporal boundary. Each part of the leaf-puddle entanglement is in an ever-emerging relational state of becoming-with one another (Haraway, 2016).  

Thinking-with leaf-puddle and the concepts of intra-action and sympoiesis troubles the positioning of Place as seen in many Australian place-based programs. If we are to think-with relational and entangled ontologies then we (human/educator/researcher/children) are already entangled in common worlds becoming-with one another. Place can no longer be viewed as a static backdrop to learning (or for learning about) but instead as an agentic, emerging collaborator in thinking.  

Wind shifts leaf-puddle, hair, jacket and raindrops in trees above. It shifts wind-sound through ears and transports birdsong from afar. Drops fall onto glasses, momentarily blurring the view, fingers smudge across lenses. Drips on fingertips, seeps into shoes, through socks and into skin. Raindrops drip down fingers, run onto paper, blurring ink. The diffractive patterns of movement emerging from within leaf-puddle affect me. It prompts what Stephanie Springgay and Sarah E. Truman call an agitation of thought (Springgay & Truman, 2018).  Hesitating-with, thinking-with leaf-puddle yet a moment of pause before sitting-with. Damp, soggy, spongey, cool, messy earth does not easily welcome sitting. Choosing to sit-with leaf-puddle is deliberate. Damp, spongey raindrop-earth seeps through jeans, into skin. Wind shifts again, this time wind and damp, skin make goosebumpy, shivering skin. I am becoming-with leaf-puddle. We are entangled in a leaf-puddle-researcher assemblage. We are making leaf-puddle-researcher. We are Place-making.  

Image: Becoming-with leaf-puddle. Thinking-with leaf-puddle happens because all parts of the entanglement are making it happen.   

Thinking is emerging in the in-between of leaf-puddle-researcher. Although I cannot (perhaps yet) name it, there is something happening in the in-between of leaf-puddle-researcher that causes diffractive patterns of thought and brings forth “concerns, and gnawings” (Springgay & Truman, 2018, p. 207). They challenge what might otherwise have emerged from this encounter. Does this emerging thinking need to be named? And how can it be if the thinking is in the performance of becoming rather than the outcome? Perhaps it is more important not to know or to name but rather to propel forward with this thinking with an intention to make a difference to what happens next.  

References 

Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the universe halfway. Duke University Press. 

Haraway, D. (2016). Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the chtuluceneDuke University Press.  

Myers, N. (2017). Becoming sensor in sentient worlds: A more-than-natural history of a black oak savannah. Between matter and method: Encounters in anthropology and art, 73-96. 

Springgay, S. & Truman, S.E. (2018). On the need for methods beyond proceduralism: Speculative middles, (in)tensions, and response-ability in research. Qualitative Inquiry, 24(3), 203-214. http://doi/10.1177/1077800417704464 

Taylor, A. (2013). Reconfiguring the natures of childhood. Routledge. 

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