30 SES 12 A, ESE in Higher Education
This presentation outlines the frame for a starting research project (2022-2025) that focuses on children’s and young people’s lives and emotional experiences in the environmental crisis of our era. The research activates two debated concepts, the Anthropocene (Crutzen & Stoermer, 2000) and the idea of im/possible post-pandemic life.
The Anthropocene, the observation that our planet’s systems have been profoundly and irreversibly affected by human activity, has been seen as a catastrophe with an odd, even schitzophrenic promise (Haraway et al., 2016). The promise of scientific renewal lies in the impossibility of going on with the anthropocentric, Western beliefs and routines. The Covid-19 pandemic has further unsettled the position and the utopia of the bounded, self-contained human at the top of the species hierarchy. Our research aims at responding to the ontological challenge of “the age of man” by collaboratively redefining the position of the human in a more-than-human world. It develops ways of attuning to new kinds of hopeful multispecies collaborations, which according to Tsing (2015) can begin to pop up in unprecedented ways in the ruins of previous life modes.
According to various scholars, the Anthropocene calls for new kinds of knowledge practices (Kraftl et al., 2020). To this end, we build the research according to the logic of assemblage (Tsing, 2015) using ethnographic and narrative approaches influenced by multispecies ethnography (Van Dooren et al., 2016), feminist “bag lady stories” (Haraway, 2016), and artistic experimentation. We will be doing field work in educational environments that have been affected by the pandemic, in the “edges” and margins of formal and informal education - such as kindergartens, zoos, art schools, nature clubs, scouts, and museums. In these contexts, we will purposefully look for nontraditional encounters between species.
What is it like to live as a child at this moment on planet Earth? How do the changing relations between nature and culture become visible in the lives of young people at the moment? What are the new multispecies collaborations like? How to begin to notice them and attend to them? And how to tell about them to other people?
The concept of atmospheres and atmospheric attunement (Anderson & Ash, 2015; Stewart, 2011) is at the core of the methodology. This concept allows us to situate the research in specific places and times, but also to zoom out and to embrace phenomena that are fleeting and ephemeral, only hardly visible, or felt as ghostly absences. Accroding to surveys, environmental concerns (such as climate anxiety) are currently the biggest cause of anxiety among young people in Finland. Atmospheres offers us a way to speak about emotions around environmental issues, but in ways that are more-than-human, and reach beyond the limits of individual human beings. Intensified by the digital media, atmospheres can accumulate and generate politics and movements. To notice subtle changes in atmospheres, or to examine atmospheres that “rub” against each other, signaling these kinds of societal shifts, is one goal of our inquiry (Anderson & Ash, 2015). The research will proceed through an ethnographic phase to an experimental phase, in which we will use arts and crafts techniques to answer to the research questions above. Throughout the project, stories and conversations will be gathered in a growing archive, which will be of use for scholars, decision-makers and general audience as first-hand information about the specifics that define the lives of the young people. The stories and artworks will be collected and produced with the help of an experimental research station. The stories of the archive will be reflecting Tsing’s assertion that we need to tell true stories in new ways.
The outcomes of the research are both methodological and substantial. The research will develop new methods of attuning to and accounting for multispecies places, incommensurate inheritances, and young people’s environmental emotions. Also called the Covid generation, this generation has to begin to solve the problems they are inheriting from us. This research will join this vast task, which requires rethinking educational practices and epistemologies. We will develop new ways of approaching the issues collaboratively, and new knowledge practices to talk about them in science and in public. Through telling new kinds of true stories (Tsing, 2015), the aim is to set forth some hopeful contagions in dire times.
Anderson, B., and J. Ash. 2015. “Atmospheric Methods.” In Non-representational Methodologies, edited by P. Vannini, 44–61. New York: Routledge. Crutzen, Paul J. and Eugene F. Stoermer 2000. The “Anthropocene.” Global Change Newsletter (41): 17–18. Haraway DJ (2016) Staying with the Trouble. Duke University Press. Haraway, D., N. Ishikawa, S. F. Gilbert, K. Olwig, A. L. Tsing, and N. Bubandt. 2016. “Anthropologists are Talking – about the Anthropocene.” Ethnos 81 (3): 535–564. doi:10.1080/00141844.2015.1105838. Kraftl, P., A. Taylor, and V. Pacini-Ketchabaw. 2020. “Introduction to Symposium: Childhood Studies in the Anthropocene.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 41 (3): 333–339. doi:10.1080/01596306. 2020.1779448. Stewart, K. 2011. “Atmospheric Attunements.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29 (3): 445–453. Tsing, A. L. (2015). The Mushroom at the End of the World. Princeton University Press. Van Dooren, T., Kirksey, E., & Münster, U. (2016). Multispecies Studies. Cultivating Arts of Attentiveness. Environmental Humanities, 8(1), 1-23.
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