Cultural Studies of Science Education

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 205–229 | Cite as

From empowerment to response-ability: rethinking socio-spatial, environmental justice, and nature-culture binaries in the context of STEM education

  • Shakhnoza KayumovaEmail author
  • Chad J. McGuire
  • Suzanne Cardello
Original Paper


In this conceptual paper, we draw upon the insights of Feminist Science Studies, in particular Karen Barad’s concept of agential realism, as a critical analytical tool to re-think nature and culture binaries in dominant science knowledge-making practices and explanatory accounts, and their possible implications for science education in the context of socio-spatial and environmental injustices. Barad’s framework proposes a relational and more expansive approach to justice, which takes into account consequential effects of nature-culture practices on humans, non-humans, and more than human vitalities. In efforts to understand potentialities of Barad’s theory of agential realism, we situate our argument in the “story” of local children who encounter a bottle of cyanide in a former manufacturing building. The story takes place in a post-industrial urban city located in the U.S., caught up in an inverse relationship between the technological and scientific advances observed “globally” and the deteriorating environmental and living conditions experienced “locally” as the result of erstwhile industrial activity. Based on agential realist readings of the story and taking into consideration children’s developing subjectivities, we argue that equity-oriented scholarship in science education might not be able to achieve justice devoid of understanding of the relatedness to plurality of life forms. We invite our readers to consider (re)configuring socio-spatial and environmental issues as an ethical response-ability that is constituted through relationships of care, recognition, openness, and responsiveness to vitalities of humans and nonhumans equally, one which cannot be conceptualized from a priori and distant calculations, but rather continuous entangled relations.


Science education Feminist new materialisms Environmental justice Socio-spatial justice Material-discursive practices 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.STEM Education and Teacher Development, College of Arts and SciencesUniversity of Massachusetts DartmouthDartmouthUSA
  2. 2.Public Policy, College of Arts and SciencesUniversity of Massachusetts DartmouthDartmouthUSA

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