expressing an ecological self

 

The work done by queer and poststructural theory together (e.g. Britzman, 1995; Kumashiro, 2002, 2004) illustrate ways in which heterosexuality has been inscribed as normal and other expressions of sexuality produced as deviant or abnormal. This work has been particularly valuable in making visible the boundaries around what kinds of subject positions are accessible, acceptable, or even thinkable (see Britzman, 1995) in a particular culture. For instance, in previous years, students in Canadian schools were seldom, if ever, introduced to the possibility of different ranges of sexual orientation as being normal; similarly, they are seldom introduced to the idea that communication with animals, plants, rocks etc. is normal. Perhaps this too, will change.

 

Such theorizing, and accompanying activist activity, has helped to establish that there is a wide range of expression of sexual attraction and that only a small range of those possible have been acceptable in 19th and 20th century North American culture (i.e. heterosexuality). Those falling outside that category have been labeled abnormal, deviant or even sick. A combination of courageous public activism together with the theoretical work that identifies many of the ways in which heterosexuality is produced as normal and dominant, has meant the word 'queer' is in the process of being (re)claimed and a wider range of expressions of one's sexual identity become more acceptable for public expression.

 

Similar to the ways in which queers, or the expression of queerness are policed, the expression of an ecological self that is porous and receptive to insights from non-human Others has been limited. For instance, expressing a direct connection to the spirit(s) of plants, naming oneself an animist, or explicitly engaging in many ancient ways of knowing can put oneself on the edges of acceptable behaviours. Students do not have easy access to subject positions that suggest communicating with the non-human is possible, appropriate, or normal.

 

The work of this dissertation is, in part, to show how access points to an animist identity/subjectivity, and the many ancient ways of knowing that support animism, have been marginalized, silenced, or otherwise made difficult to speak of. This limited access makes the possibility of living and researching through an identity/subjectivity I at times refer to as an ecological self particularly difficult. In this context, the non-human is continually positioned as object, rather than subject.

 

Happily, discussion of ways to represent the Other in research have helped to open up social acceptance of a wider range of identities/subjectivities, as have discussions of the need for epistemological and ontological diversity in research (e.g. Denzin & Lincoln, 2005; Stuckey, 2008; Young & Goulet, 1994) and education (Battiste, 1998; Dillard, 2006b; Morgan, 2003; Kumashiro, 2004).