discourses of work limit


Research, including significant life experience research (e.g. Chawla, 1998; Palmer et. al, 1998, 1999) draws on peoples' self-reports of experiences which they perceive to have motivated them to act environmentally – either as an educator or as another type of activist. Yet what has not been illustrated so clearly, and became obvious both in the conversations with Jeff, and through my own experiences in the academy, are ways in which dominant discourses of work have made it difficult to enact both daily activities and identities/subjectivities which support development of connections to animate Earth.


Discourses of work, what it looks like, how and when it happens, and how much time I should spend working, were a serious constraint to my ability to live in connection. My conversation with Jeff, and some of my own encounters, illustrate the dilemma well.


computer wins


going out - escape


In other words, opportunities to connect with, be with, and talk about animate Earth have been policed through the discourses of what counts as legitimate work.

These discourses produce subjectivities that keep us 'chained' to our computer desks, and, it seems, make it much more difficult to engage in communication with non-human Others. In other words, they are in part, illustrations of Foucault's (1977/1995) panopticon. Together with discourses around gender, school, romanticism, and appropriate teen, they provide excellent instances of category maintenance (Davies, 2000a), which in this case, keep humans on the 'appropriate' side of the human/nature binary and limit expression of an ecological self that crosses those boundaries (see Davies & Whitehouse, 2000; Whitehouse, 2000). Perhaps it is discourses of work that have, in part, made us, as Berry (1999) suggests, "autistic" to the voices of animate Earth.