Now, as I live in a dry land,I am drawn, with joy, to the tender touch of spring crocus.
During the third year of my
doctoral program, I actively created some space for the exploration of my sense of connection to animate Earth (which at that time I was calling Land).
I found myself having difficulty speaking of this connection within my graduate school program. My naming of the 'problem' of coming to speak of my intimate connection with Earth is layered and most always uncertain and incomplete. Immediately, I found myself continually policed by an inability to speak of 'nature' and my deep connection with it, without feeling at risk of being accused of essentializing the more-than-human world (feminists have encountered similar dilemmas in their struggle to talk about women's issues without essentializing). In more general terms, it was difficult to speak of love for Land while simultaneously maintaining subjectivities appropriate to an academic or educator in the Western cultural context in which I and my research participants were working (see Barrett, 2005,2006 for further exploration of this idea).
Later I was able to identify some of the issue as institutional anthropocentrism, the continual, and unnamed (re)inscription of humans as the unmarked norm. I also acknowledged that while poststructural analysis with a feminist orientation is very helpful in making visible the ways in which marginalization is produced and maintained, there is also a risk associated with poststructural deconstruction of subjectivity production when speaking about marginalized identities (e.g. an ecological identity/subjectivity).
It was not until I began engaging in dialogic reading and researching practices that I realized the response to problem I needed to be much more concerned about remained, at that time, beyond discourses and ontologies I had easy access to within the literature I was reading, and the academy where I was completing my doctorate. It also required standing firmly on what sometimes seemed like shaky ontological ground – shaky at least in the sense that it was outside that being explicitly discussed in most published literature in the field of educational research, and also in that it led to claims that any poststructural analysis could deem to be essentialist.
After much work shifting discourses powerfully inscribed in my body and finding other animist scholars to converse with, I began to 'stand' my ontological 'ground,' and speak more explicitly of the Earth as an animate, communicative, and active participant in my research. It wasn't until I was almost done that I was able to speak expressly of spirit as part of my understandings of communicative processes with animate Earth.