Winter Symposium 26-28 March 2021
Topic: Education and Nature as the Other in the Anthropocene
Call for Papers
About this study circle:
The aim of the study circle is to analyse, discuss and (re)think the futures of education, cultural diversity and the individual, collective and social transformations in the current epoch of the Anthropocene. Anthropocene is the unofficial term for the present epoch which denotes the dominance and global effects of human activities on the Earth’s ecosystems, biodiversity and geology. This poses new challenges and threats to our collective life (both human, animal, and to the ecosystems), and forces transformations. This includes issues such as human rights, world citizenship, alterity, heterological thinking and new concepts of peace and sustainability, both from western and non-western perspectives, human and non/trans-human perspectives. Dealing with these different issues, the “response” to the Anthropocene is ever-present, whether as optimistic or as pessimistic approaches. Currently, education systems are undergoing reforms to meet the needs of the economy for growth. One example is the reform effective in Norway from next school year, where the aim is to produce workers for the future for the sake of the economy (NOU 2015:8, p. 33-34). Such a focus leaves out much to be wanted in an educational setting with regards to answering the current crisis. Traditionally, the idea of Bildung has served as a conceptual framework from which to form a critique of these trends. Due to its holistic focus on education, Bildung can serve as a mutual opening of the self and the world as reflected in the idea of the Anthropocene, and create a relation between the human and the non-human other.
The study circle will be organised around the following six major themes:
- Education and Nature as the Other in the Anthropocene
In this first theme, therefore, we wish to explore nature as the non-human other and the possibilities and limits of the current pedagogy and educational systems in both the Nordic area and the Baltics in relation to the non-human other. This means daring to explore and reinterpret the entire foundations of our educational traditions, and even the definition of humanity in light of insights from the non-human other.
Through current proposals such as dark pedagogy, wild pedagogy and ecocritical pedagogy, and ideas such as “bewildering education” (Snaza 2018), “decentering the human”, “environmental literacy”, “re-wildering the human consciousness”, and knowledge emerging from a “natural library” (Hawke 2012), we can find interesting perspectives on how non- humans can be included in educational activities – not only as objects for study, but also as agents in their own right. This will bring about ideas on how to develop heterological relations with the radical other, at the same time discussing if human rights need to be limited, changed or otherwise rethought from the roots in relation to having eco-rights on an equal base. Also non-western traditions, where we find different ontologies, anthropologies and nature- philosophies, should be included in the exploration of (re)defining the human and non-human other and their relations, including the investigation into what McKenna called the archaic revival (McKenna 1991). This, then, leads us to the question of the human.
- Education and the Human Other in the Anthropocene
The focus on technical and capitalist aspects of education, as education for growth and technical skills, implies that everything, including ourselves, are reduced to resources and we are therefore not “someones” having value in and of ourselves. The claim for this value needs to be made, but in relation to and with respect to the radical non-human or more-than-human other (Deleuze and Guattari; Nietzsche; Jagodzinski).
This task calls for politics to change, in order to accommodate its failure to form alliances with other movements, imaginations and educational practices. The concept of universal human rights, as well as the rights of the non-human others, and their sustainability (we can call them “universal being rights”), refers to politically articulated relations of differences in the so- called “plus globalization” (Latour, 2019). The term designates a new reality that questions globalizations early focus on profit maximization and the reduction of human beings to resources, and instead it asks for the re-grounding of ourselves as citizens, both as terrestrial nomads and world citizens.
- Education and the Technological Other in the Anthropocene
The human world does not only consist of the natural world and the inter-human world, it also consists of the technological world developed by humanity. In a sense, the technology we see today is largely a major part of the problem in the Anthropocene. Yet, the current technological developments are going towards solving the negative impact that former technological advances has had on the Planet, by e.g. developing technology to clean the oceans from plastic and creating solutions towards solar and wind energy.
Nevertheless, could the same attitude and trust in technology that has led to the Anthropocene help us out of this? Or can such a change only come as a result of a redefinition of the human and the more-than-human other, in the form of the technological other (AI, virtual reality, robotics). As technology can be viewed as a realized potential of an imagined other, would different cultures then have different imaginings and different issues with the technological other?
One of the main issues in the West, regarding AI, is whether it is possible to integrate a sense of emotion or feeling into the AI. Intellect and emotion are seen as two separate faculties.
However, from a Japanese perspective, the notion of kokoro (こころ、心), as a mindful heart unit, forces the question of whether it is possible to separate the intellect from the emotional and still have true “Intelligence”.
Furthermore, how are we to deal with issues such as uniqueness, ethics, values and rights? What are the rights of mass-produced intelligences? What function shall they have, and are these developed to serve and ease our lives? Should they take over all manual labour? How do we redefine education when/if we do not need to focus on manual labour?
Pessimistic predictions of the developments within AI have been explored in literature and modern pop-culture (various versions of Faust, H. C. Andersen The Shadow, Shelly Frankenstein; The Matrix, etc. as the doppelgänger-theme). This theme explores how man’s created servants become the masters. If AI should protect humanity, the Anthropocene shows that a logical response would be to limit our behaviour (cf. Asimov, 1950). The role of education and Bildung needs to take into consideration the radically new other as an agent on its own, and how to relate to it. One conceivable potentiality is the recurring theme among futurologists known as the Singularity Theory as another way to tackle the doppelgänger- theme. The question of our exploration will also be how this changes and transforms our inter-human dynamics, and how to secure a utopian development.
- Imagining the Future – Traditions and Transformations
“Reality is made by people who can see things that do not yet exist.” (Piet Hein, 1963) The future is also something we imagine. Imagining the future is to understand not just the ability to form images, but also the aspiration and the liberation to deform them, to transform the reality into different potentials. The ontology of imagination has a quality that opposes the perception, and sees things in becoming. As such, imagination is a form of transcendence and its educational value is the possibility to see the dynamic value of reality.
Educational practise should include the imagined futures to investigate pessimistic and optimistic responses, and steps towards sustainably realized futures. Traditions need to be explored to see how imaginings has created present realized structures. Furthermore, exploring possibilities of providing a universal being(s) right, on behalf of, or in addition to human rights is encouraged.
Does current developments in power – and economic structures where bitcoin and blockchain technology for example, provide facilities for sharing trust provide sufficiently strong future alternatives to the current centralized power-structure? Or is it more fruitful to explore the weaknesses and the strength of the UN when it comes to steering states towards a humanistic development, which include heterological relations and dialogue with non-human, human and more-than-human others. How and by whom should the framework be imagined and realized? Our investigation will go along with the UNESCO 2030 initiative on the education and sustainable development, as well as with the UNESCO 2050 global initiative to reimagine how education can shape the future of humanity and the planet.
Will a Bildung based education provide a proper arena for dealing with the cross-cultural and technological future? This tradition needs to enter into a dialogue with non-Western traditions to explore the heterological relations of the future.
- Diversity, Transformation and the Future
“Reality” should not only be seen as including “present actuality” of different worldviews. The challenge is also to focus on emerging issues, problems and possibilities. Reality includes not only actuality and the given “orders” which situates that actuality. It also includes both conceivable and non-conceivable (from the perspective of the given order) potentialities (a point which is analysed in depth in both modern philosophy and in peace and conflict studies). These potentialities and imaginings, however, are real since they can function as motivating possibilities and are therefore crucial in relation to transformation and/or creation of alternative educational orders. This point is central in debates on educational policy and institutions as this means that policy is not only possibilities in given educational orders (and the larger orders the educational orders are embedded in). The notion of Utopia as a terra nullius, always transcending and transforming our cultures shows how imaginings and potentials can be realized, as explored in theme 4.
With the growing number of people identifying themselves as “digital indigenous citizens” rather that national, the second potentiality involves governance and world citizenship. The role of future educations would be to promote ideas of global solidarity, diversity, transitioning away from money, and humans rooted in Global values instead of national – the most advanced effort by far being that of the United Nations. The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has a holistic approach regarding three mayor goals: social, environmental and economic. We will explore the educational values of studies across the disciplines including the global environmental governance.
- Action-oriented Change – Potentialities for Sustainability
The aforementioned notion of reality opens up for questions regarding how orders (at different levels) emerge and disappears – educational politics are therefore also closely related to issues regarding aesthetics and the structures which allow and disallows different forms of “educational worlds.”
This will be helpful for explorative, action-oriented research into how the insights mentioned in theme 4 can be combined with institutional transformations of educational and political institutions, organizations, and structures, such as the governance models of the so-called Type two partnership and other forms of governance, which are distinct from particular established ones. This can, for example, be the development of new cross-disciplinary, cross- institutionalized and non-formal social forms of learning and edification processes.
- New paradigmatic research regarding the role of education, and the relation between human, nature and technology in the Anthropocene in a multicultural, globalized world.
- To establish a research platform for development and innovation of new forms of formal and informal education across the Nordic countries, which will also function as topoi for generating further funding in the Nordic/Baltic and the EU.
- A policy proposal for futures of education in the Nordic/Baltic regarding the Anthropocene
- A publication after the first three years with the main results of study circle’s work.
- Winter 2021, Online Symposium. Theme 1. Coordinators: Oddbjørn Jensen, Jasna Koteska, Kristian Guttesen
- Summer 2021. Theme 1-2.
- Winter 2022, Reykjavik, Iceland. Theme 3-4. Local Coordinator: Kristian Guttesen.
- Summer 2020. Theme 3-4.
- Winter 2023, Aarhus, Denmark. Theme 5-6. Local Coordinator: Jesper Garsdal.
- Summer 2023. Theme 5-6.
This study circle consists partly in members from two pre-existing NSU study circles. In the below links, details are given about their activities: