engaging porosity (I)

As I responded, time and again, to the inevitable questions about my dissertation, I would wonder what language to speak in. In some instances, I would respond in the language of teacher identity, or sometimes, of subjectivity and poststructuralism. In others, it would be in the language of chi, or quantum energy. On rare occasions, particularly before I got a tenure-track job and began conversations with one of the tenured Aboriginal scholars in my faculty, I would use the language of spirit. It all depended on the audience and acceptable discourses in any given context.

The word porosity came to me as I began working on my largest collage, meLand, and has provided language to describe the intimate connectedness, at an energetic level, of all parts of the universe (Berry & Tucker, 2006; Goswami, 1993; Greene, 1999; Laszlo, 2008).

The processes of doing spontaneous artwork (Lipsett, 2001) led me to the the word, which I (now) use interchangeably with the word animism, or animist ontology, to describe the ontological assumptions from which much of this work was co-created.

Engaging porosity depends on an openness, a quieting of the mind and engagement in ways of coming to know that may be unfamiliar – or in some cases, familiar but not named nor acknowledged in the context of most Western epistemologies and ontologies. Coming to know through porosity often "denies the 'comfort text' that maps easily onto our usual ways of making sense" (Lather, 2001, p. 205). It demands that one integrate received knowledge with that acquired through conceptual reasoned consciousness, while at the same time, trying to move beyond constraints of dominant discourses in order to remain open to what might have previously been conceived as 'unthinkable' (see Britzman, 1995).

Deciding to use the word porosity within this dissertation was both a personal and political choice. Given the cultural baggage associated with such words as animism and shamanism, and the politics associated with engaging what is often referred to as 'Aboriginal knowledge' or 'ways of knowing', I chose it as a somewhat more neutral term (if such a thing can exist).

Mostly, however, I use the word because it is the one that arrived on my tongue as I was working with meLand. It seemed to suggest a sense of fluidity (or lack of separation) between humans and the rest of animate Earth and just 'felt right'.