"The key question of whether or not a position is right, coherent, or interesting is, in this case, less informative than why it is we come to occupy and defend the territory that we do, what it promises us, from what it promises to protect us" (Butler, 1995, pp. 127-128).
Also, from what it
allows us
not to notice, or to
explain away.

I search for methods and
methodology to traverse socially constructed
boundaries between human and more-than-human (Abram, 1996) worlds;
to find a representational form congruent with the research method(ology) and its epistemological and ontological assumptions; to engage an identity/subjectivity seldom acknowledged within most Western academic traditions.

sooooo, what is your dissertation about? i would often be asked.

In some instances, I would respond in the language of teacher identity and subjectivity, or sometimes, of poststructuralism. In others, it would be in the language of chi, universe energy, love, quantum theory, or animism. On rare (although increasingly frequent) occasions, I would use the language of animate Earth, speaking of it as a sensuous and (sometimes) telepathically communicative research partner. Just as seldom, (given the contentious relationship of academic discourse and spirituality) I would draw on the language of spirit. It all depended on the audience and the entry point. What word(s) work for you?

This introduction to my work is informed by many conversations which evolved in response to the question: what is your dissertation about? The dissertation foregrounds a commitment to represent my research in ways that are methodologically, epistemologically and ontologically congruent (Hart, 2002), while acknowledging the many human and other-than-human persons who participated in its conception, unfolding, and re-presentation (Lotz-Sisitka & Burt, 2002).

Thus, rather than immediately launch into a pre-prepared thirty-second spiel in response to the question "what is your dissertation about?", I learned to pause first, listen, then hear the words begin to flow. This practice enabled me to open to what Astin (2002) refers to as trans-rational ways of knowing, ways which offer access to insights through what I refer to as porosity – the practice of opening to and acknowledging the interconnectedness of all things.

Once I got practiced at this technique of pausing and listening (which is qualitatively different than stopping and thinking), almost invariably, those who asked the question would make a connection to my response, rather than give me the blank stares that sometimes came when I chose my response based on my intellect alone. This integrated way of knowing draws on ancient practices (see glossary), assumes engagement with one's re-animated perception (see Bai, 2009), and in the context of this research, is grounded in an ontology of spiritual animism. Both in the content of the hypertext itself, and in one's journey through it, I invite readers to listen in ways that may just cross worldviews and allow 'hearing' the many voices of animate Earth (see Abram, 2006). This means letting go of a priori ontological and epistemological assumptions rooted in, and reinscribed through, most Western academic research.

soooooo, why is this dissertation in hypertext?

This research explores ways to find spaces for insights from the non-, or, as Abram (1996) refers to it, the "more-than-human world" to enter research texts, both in the writing and the reading. Perhaps what is needed in order to live sustainably is not only how to think critically as Scott & Gough, (2003) suggest, but also how to perceive differently (Bai, 2009)...how to listen to, hear, interpret and re-represent the many voices of an interactive animate Earth (see Abram, 1996, 2006; Berry & Tucker, 2006; Harvey, 2006b; Plumwood, 2002). To do this requires practice silencing the discursive rational mind (Bai, 2003, 2009; Lipsett, 2001), and engaging in research methods, methodologies and in some cases, forms of representation, that extend beyond current boundaries of what is normally used and valued in academic contexts. To do this work requires enhancing one's ability to perceive. It also requires releasing the hold of dominant, normalizing discourses that do not permit one to engage in understandings from outside one's cultural norm, while at the same time, clearing normalizing discourses (i.e. understandings of what counts), including those reinscribed by Western academic research protocols.

As Bai (2003) puts it: "discursive explanations are no good for non-discursive experience!" (p. 47).

I offer this hypertext as one response to these concerns and Russell's (2005) request for research representations to, "in their multivocality, create space for the 'voices' of 'nature' to be more audible, and in their polyvocality, take into account our own animality, and in doing both, trouble the 'nature'/culture divide" (p. 439). As many suggest, different languages, often including different ways of knowing and forms of representation, allow humans to 'hear' the multiple voices of 'nature' (e.g. Abram, & Jardine, 2000; Cole, 2002; Lipsett, 2001; O'Riley & Cole, 2009). To simply ask for a different language using the dominant one (as I am doing here) is not enough (see Bai, 2003); other languages, ways of knowing, and ways to represent that knowing, are required.

The text is designed to offer multiple invitations for readers to follow their intuitive knowing. Rather than reinscribing "the tyranny of the languaged consciousness" (Bai, 2003, p. 49) through a continuous essay form, I use the form itself to open spaces for one's non-discursive, psychically informed knowing to be foregrounded. Because of its symbolic (and literal) porosity and 'forced' intuitive choices (many of the links are intuitively, rather than rationally connected, making it difficult to read through one's rational mind alone), this hypertextual representation constitutes one way to encourage readers to read through re-animated perception (Bai, 2009), or with spirit. It disrupts the dominant role humans have afforded themselves as primary story-tellers and meaning-makers in textual representations (see Cole, 2002). In its multi-sequential (Morgan, 2000) reading options, the hypertext offers an invitation for travellers to engage in readings that foreground, in the moment of stillness before making a choice, a trans-rational (Astin, 2002) epistemology and ontology.

If research and teaching practices continue to privilege thinking as the primary way of knowing, and human generated texts as the primary and privileged way of accessing knowledge, then other-than-human persons will continue to be unacknowledged in most knowledge-making endeavours.

It is through the spaces-in-between, as much as in the text itself, that new meanings can be made – meanings which disrupt ways of knowing that reinscribe the socially constructed separation between humans and the more-than-human world.

The combination of poetry, art, music, prose, recorded human voice and photographic images represented through the porous and contingent nature of hypertext creates multiple entry points for 'readers' to engage it. This is, in part, a response to the challenge of producing accessible research that speaks to a variety of audiences (Fine, Weis, Weseen & Wong, 2000; Lather, 2000; Lather & Smithies, 1997; McKenzie, 2007; Nolan, 2005; Tuhiwai Smith, 1999), and bridges the gap between researchers and practitioners (see McIntyre, 2005). It also represents the indeterminacy of knowledge, makes visible the contradictory nature of knowledge and its production (Morgan, 2000) and intentionally maintains dissonances rather than making them invisible (Morgan, 2000). The form highlights the performative nature of any research text (Finley, 2005; Kumashiro, 2004), and explicitly includes the reader, as well as the author, in that performance (Morgan, 2000; Sinner et. al, 2006). Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the hypertextual representation of this work is responsive to (and, I hope) productive of, multiple ways of knowing (McKenzie & Timmerman, 2007; Morgan, 2000) and being in the world.

Section overview: The Abstract provides a conventional overview of the dissertation. The Introduction is as its title states, while Reading this dissertation provides a storied explanation of the intention behind the representational form. If the hypertext's webbed form proves frustrating to make sense of, it might be useful to return to here, or go to the next section, Taking representation seriously: Epistemological and Ontological Congruence in Hypertextual Research/Representation. This prose section, written at the end of the research process, makes more explicit the rationale for representing the dissertation in hypertext. Some readers may also prefer to begin with the Executive summary. Writing about provides context for the limitations of linear explanatory prose, and part of the impetus for the shift in focus from the original research questions (see Study context for more). Writing through poses some early thoughts, questions and tensions. Beyond grammar speaks most directly to my desire to acknowledge and express some of the tensions of 'coming out' as an animist in the contested spaces of Westernized academic culture. The Method(ology) section explains, in image, prose, and hyperlinks, the many methods behind the process of a dialogic methodology. It is supported by Researching with, which recounts openings to and tensions associated with researching through an animist ontology. If a more linear prose version is preferred, Taking representation seriously (see above) may be more satisfying. The Glossary both provides an explication of key terms and reveals much of the theoretical framework(s) for the dissertation. Study context gives the background to the study and its emergent questions. Study sites describes the school sites which prompted many of the final research questions, and also explains how the self-reflexive examination of the dissertation process itself came to be the focus for this research study (sometimes referred to as autoethnography). The Acknowledgements and Research ethics provide very small but important spaces for expression of thanks to those who have travelled routes of change before me and whose words, gestures and creative expressions offered both openings for and challenges to this project. To the human and more-than-human participants in, and supporters of this research, I offer my deepest gratitude. Visitors to the site may track their own journey through the hypertext in the Reader's Journey link (the data stays in the computer cache for seven days, as long as the cookies are enabled). Recording and analyzing these journeys would make a great study someday... but that is for another time (let me know if you are interested). References are in standard A.P.A. format. The list includes citations from both the hypertext and the published papers which form this dissertation. Finally, the Site map may, for some, be the most useful 'return-to' page. Here all the files are listed in alphabetical order by title. Like most of the document, reading it dialogically (i.e. intuitively) can open windows to new ideas, or provide just the right quotation to begin a class, open a paper, or bring into a meeting. It is also here that the bulk of the content, the bowels of the dissertation, so to speak, are explicitly visible. This Research was approved by the Research Ethics Board, University of Regina.

"…I am interested in the moment when I became aware of a congruence between the topic and the method of inquiry. This congruence runs so deep that the topic becomes the method through which the topic is pursued" (Oberg, 2003, p. 126).


© Mary Jeanne (M.J.) Barrett, 2009
Images Copyrighted As Noted on Rollovers
All Songs and Lyrics Copyrighted to Carolyn McDade Unless Otherwise Noted