academic openings....


The following (always in-process) lists identify many of the policing, or limiting, discourses and imagined risks encountered as I moved through this dissertation process. At different times, each had varying degrees of power to affect my speaking and reseaerch processes. In some instances, the naming of the limiting discourses seemed to give them more power. In others, naming (i.e. making the discourses visible) lessened their effects (Davies, 2000a). In others, where the discourses were encountered daily or were powerfully inscribed in my particular body, clearing them at the energetic level was the most effective way to either eliminate or minimize their effects.


Intertwined with constraining discourses, I also encountered many "cracks in consent" (marino, 1997, p. 14). These openings enabled me to move beyond the power of particular discourses to speak more freely. It is my hope that these lists stimulate ongoing discussion of ways in which research method(ologies), methods, and educational practice might provide openings to deep connections with animate Earth and the parts of ourselves which hold ancient wisdom.


These include:

  1. dominant cultural norms of what constitutes legitimate research (Robottom & Hart, 1993; St. Pierre & Roulston, 2006) and ways of producing and representing knowledge (Dillard, 2006a, 2006b, Richardson, 2002a; many others)
  2. epistemologies and ontologies that assume the more-than-human world does not have consciousness nor interact with humans in a dialogic relationship
  3. privileging of the conceptual over the perceptual (Bai, 2001, 2009; Barrett, 2007; see also, Payne, 2005a)
  4. discourses of appropriation of indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing (Battiste & Henderson, 2000; Harvey, 2003; O'Riley, 2003; Tuhiwai Smith, 1999)*
  5. a culture of busy-ness that makes it difficult to hear the earth's many voices (EE group discussion, Switzerland, 2007)
  6. Western school science curricula that define rocks and similar beings as inanimate
  7. claims that expressions of awe, love etc. vis-à-vis nature (e.g. Bowerbank, 1998; Sandilands, 2002) are instances of socially constructed romanticism
  8. "methodological atheism" (Ezzy, 2004, p. 118), and avoidance of the 'S' word in discussions of research methodology (see Dillard, 2006a, 2006b; Shahjahan, 2005; Tuhiwai Smith, 1999)
  9. many Christian discourses which are often very human-centered and wary of earth-based spiritual practices (Ruether, 1993; Taylor, 2009)
  10. a range of suspicion, fear (Ezzy, 2004) and delegitimization (Dillard, 2003a) of ways of knowing, and knowledge that does not have rational explanations (Findlay, 2000; Hufford, 2003; Jonas & Crawford, 2003, 2004; Plumwood, 2002), together with reinscription of conceptual reasoned thought as the primary and privileged way of knowing in most academic pursuits
  11. shamanophobia (including my own) (Wallis, 1999; Walter & Fridman, 2004)
  12. reinscription of humans (and perhaps other animals, particularly mammals) as the sole holder(s) of consciousness and intentionality and the unmarked norm against which all others are measured (Bell & Russell, 2000; Plumwood, 2002)
  13. ontologies that deny (or ignore) the energetic connections among all things (for alternatives, see Goswami, 1993; Greene, 1999; Laszlo, 2008)
  14. marginalization of energy healing as a way to enable change (Hufford, 2003; Lipton, 2005). Although gaining increasing acceptance, energy healing is still on the fringes of Western health paradigms (Hufford, 2003; Jonas & Crawford, 2003, 2004; Lipton, 2005) and its processes and effects remain difficult to research and speak about within a culture that privileges scientific paradigms (Crawford, Sparber & Jonas, 2003). This too, is changing.

These 'closings' are layered onto the risks associated with challenging them, and thus inappropriately 'performing' human and academic as it is conceived in many Western and most academic contexts. During much of the production of this dissertation, to speak of my research processes was difficult and appeared to be fraught with many risks – risks which appeared as both technologies of power and/or technologies of self (Foucault, 1988). These included:

  1. the risk (and reality) of having proposals rejected at conferences
  2. the risk of not being part of the academic club (see Boler, 1999) if I use languages and research methodologies not readily acknowledged in educational research
  3. the risk (and reality) of being told 'your hands can't know' (comment from a senior faculty member in response to me describing parts of my research)
  4. the risk (and tension) of living contradictory subjectivities/identities simultaneously in both my personal and professional lives – one which I could reveal, and the other which often remained hidden
  5. the risk of inappropriately performing human in Western and academic contexts (and the associated risk of being told I am crazy) (see Jensen, 2004; Plumwood, 2000; Turner, 1993/2003; Williams, 2005)
  6. the risk of being accused of appropriation of indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing (Battiste & Henderson, 2000; Harvey, 2003; O'Riley, 2003; Tuhiwai Smith, 1999), or being labeled an Indian wannabe (O'Riley, 2003)*
  7. the risk (and tensions) associated with reading dialogically (e.g. not being able to explain, in rational terms, why I did not use a particular author, or why their arguments were not useful to me; always feeling like I should just be 'more rational')
  8. the risk of being explicit about using a dowser as one of my key research tools (I was told by a committee member to go ahead and use it, but not mention it in my dissertation; another committee member encouraged me to talk about how hard it is to talk about)
  9. the risk of not getting a job (I was applying for jobs during the fall/winter of 2006/2007)
  10. the risk of not conforming to the 7-page guidelines for formatting dissertations, published by the Faculty of Graduate Studies (this delayed my defense by several months while awaiting approval of a motion to the Faculty of Graduate Studies to change their regulations for dissertation formats).
  11. ..............the risk of not receiving appropriate approvals from my dissertation committee, defense, or one of the many other gatekeepers of the academy.

Yet as noted above, together with these policing discourses and felt risks, there were also many 'cracks in consent' (marino, 1997, p.14) which supported my research. These included:

  1. Ongoing discussions of the importance of engaging research methodology at the level of epistemology and ontology
  2. increasing use of arts-based research (e.g. Cole, Neilsen, Knowles & Luciani, 2004; Finley, 2003, 2005; Sinner et. al, 2006) and 'alternative' forms of representation (Dillard, 2003a) in educational research
  3. discussions of hypertext as a way to draw attention to the normative qualities of standardized research representations (LeCourt & Barnes, 1999) and open up multivocal representational spaces (e.g. Morgan, 2003; McKenzie & Timmerman, 2007)
  4. a dissertation committee who were open to epistemological diversity and did not constrain my research to that which was expressed in my original proposal
  5. Kathy Nolan's (2001) precedent-setting dissertation which had already broken close to two-thirds of the guidelines for formatting dissertations at the University of Regina
  6. a previously established presentation and publication record (e.g. Barrett, 2005, 2006; Barrett, Hart, Nolan & Sammel, 2005; Barrett & Sutter, 2006)
  7. assumptions that form and content in research representation do not work independently of one other (see Butler-Kisber, 2002; Nolan, 2007, 2008)
  8. the self-reflexive turn in anthropology (see Marcus & Fischer, 1986; Young & Goulet, 1994) and those who have explicitly written about encounters with spirit in the context of doing academic research (e.g. Bernard, 2007; Turner, 1993/2003, 1994; Wallis, 1999, 2000; Young & Goulet, 1994)
  9. an invaluable article written by Graham Harvey entitled "Animals, animists, and academics" (2006b)
  10. Tai Njio and others who helped me learn how to use energy healing methods to shift discourses in my own body
  11. the increasing appearance of and expressions of desire for the word 'spirit' in the context of educational research (e.g. Dillard, 2006a, 2006b, 2008; Shahjahan, 2005)
  12. ongoing support from many non-human companions along this journey – many of whom I have yet to identify individually
  13. the serendipitous timely entry into my life of key human supporters, many of whom are named in the acknowledgements and the reference list
  14. art, spirit and intellect.

Now, as I wonder how the field of environmental education specifically, and research more generally, might be limiting itself, (see Hart, 2003a, drawing on Nolan, 2001), I write my refined research questions:

  1. How might a researcher intentionally and respectfully engage with and acknowledge animate Earth and spirit as key sources of knowledge and wisdom in the process of academic inquiry?
  2. In the field of education, what are some of the discourses which have made the twinned acts of research/representation in communication with animate Earth difficult to engage and acknowledge? and,
  3. Acknowledging that research representation is itself a form of knowledge production, and all representational forms have limitations, what kinds of research representation might be congruent with the epistemological and ontological premises of animism?

The answer to the first question is in the method(ology) section and the links that expand on my methods. The second is in the lists above. The third is embedded in the hypertextual form itself and elaborated upon in the overview paper, entitled Taking Representation Seriously: Epistemological and Ontological Congruence in Hypertextual Research Representation.


*As I continue to bring my research forward, I have received much support from Aboriginal colleagues and find more and more non-Aboriginal scholars who have also disrupted many of the discourses that work to maintain socially constructed human/nature boundaries.