Art educators have already responded to eco-social challenges for decades by seeking to advance environmental awareness, sensitivity, eco-social justice, democracy, and cultural sustainability. These various approaches and conceptualisations are discussed in this doctoral dissertation as environmental art education (EAE).
The dissertation investigates EAE with a focus on its philosophical-theoretical groundings. A comprehensive mapping of EAE literature highlights that despite EAE aims at challenging modern Western dualistic thinking, the applied humanist theories problematically reassert the separateness of the categories of human and nature. The dissertation discusses the limitations of traditional EAE as it does not seem to offer a means for questioning human exceptionalism (anthropocentrism). Particularly when living through ecological crises, EAE, which furthermore runs the risk of romanticising human-nature relations, appears inadequate.
The research reorients EAE by engaging with posthumanist theories. It draws from the threads of environmental, critical, feminist, and educational posthumanist theories that decentre the human, unpack categorical divides through materialist and process-oriented ontologies, and intersect with decolonial, race and other critical theories. The methodology of the research is informed by the recent developments in post-qualitative inquiry, including multispecies and walking methodologies.
The research puts posthumanist theories to work by developing and employing an experiment called becoming-with the forest. Through focusing on artistic thinking, and embodied, sensory, movement-based ways of knowing, the experiment aims at groping towards multispecies and material forest entanglements, provoking thinking-with others, and queering habitual responses and conceptions of subjectivity. Different aspects unfolding in the experiment are introduced through visual-textual stories. The experiment activated considerations concerning the recognising of vulnerabilities, difficulties of disturbing anthropocentrism, and complex responses to the enmeshment of nature and culture. These topics are discussed further with posthumanist theories, and their implications for EAE pedagogies are speculated upon.
The research proposes generative potentials in art educational strategies for queering normative human-nature relations, acknowledging more-than-human agencies, and creating new stories of shared worlds beyond human mastery. It encourages focusing on complex material and multispecies entanglements and attending to their ethics and politics in arts and their education, and proposes practices that are critical-creative, experimental, open-ended, transdisciplinary, and engage with multiple ways of knowing. These suggestions pave the way for exploring further the profound implications of posthumanist ontologies for subjectivities, pedagogies, learning, and the arts.