13 SES 12 B, Public Pedagogy, the University, and the Thing of Education
The aim of this presentation is to discuss contemporary ecological theories concerning the university. Within the literature on higher education we discern two perspectives that conceive of the university from an ecological point of view. The first perspective is Ron Barnett’s work on the ecological university. In this theory the ecological is an attribute of the university. The connection that is drawn between ecology and university requires to think about the university as ecological. Hence, we speak of ecology as an idea to understand the nature of the university (Barnett, 2011, 2018). The second perspective is Susan Wright’s work on the university in a knowledge ecology. Here the notion of ecology comes in as a methodological lens with which one can understand the embeddedness of the university in a network of other organizations such as publishing houses, government agencies, and business companies. The connection that is drawn here between ecology and university requires to think ecologically about the university. Hence, we speak of ecology as a way to understand the interrelatedness of other organizations with the university (Wright, 2016).
Next to this ecology of ideas (cf. Barnett) and ecology of organizations (cf. Wright) we argue that there is the possibility to think about the relation between university and ecology via the notion of practice. Inspired by the work of Isabelle Stengers on the ecology of scientific practices, we want to investigate in this paper how the university can be understood as such an ecology where scientific practices converge with study practices. After a short analysis of the ideational and organizational rendering of ecology in relation to higher education, the greater part of the presentation will concern the elaboration of an educational understanding of Stengers’ ecology of practices (Stengers, 2006, 2017). Whereas this perspective originally emerged from an engagement in debates in philosophy of science and science and technology studies, the educational bearing of this perspective will be brought to the fore. It will be argued that the university constitutes a specific milieu where scientific practices and study practices bring people together to inquire current issues in the world, not so much to find end-directed solutions, but rather to problematize and give the situation the power to make us think (Stengers, 2005), or to stay with the trouble (Haraway, 2016). In this way, this presentation intends to contribute to the discussions within the emerging field of philosophy of higher education.
The main point of reference in the analysis of the work of Barnett and Wright will be the notion of ecology in relation to respectively idea and organization. This will allow to situate a practice-based ecology inspired by the work of Stengers. The notion of scientific practice will be elaborated based on her work in philosophy of science. The notion of study practice will be elaborated based on her work on the speculative philosophy of Whitehead.
The presentation aims to (1) gain an insight in the current literature and debates on ecological approaches in higher education and (2) develop a practice-based approach inspired by the work of Isabelle Stengers.
Barnett, R. (2011). The coming of the ecological university. Oxford Review of Education, 37(4), 439-455. Barnett, R. (2018). The ecological university. A feasible utopia. London: Routledge. Haraway, D. (2016). Staying with the trouble. Making kin in the Chthulucene. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Stengers, I. (2005). Introductory notes on an ecology of practices. Cultural Studies Review, 11(1), 183-196. Stengers, I. (2006). La Vierge et le neutrino. Les scientifiques dans la tourmente. Paris: Les Empêcheurs de penser en rond. Stengers, I. (2017). Civiliser la modernité? Whitehead et les ruminations du sens commun. Dijon: Les presses du réel. Wright, S. (2016). Universities in a knowledge economy or ecology? Policy, contestation and abjection. Critical Policy Studies, 10(1), 59-78.
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