The purpose of this chapter is to revisit and expand upon the concept of response-ability, shifting from the deconstructive homework of previous chapters to working towards a reconstructive response which renders science education more hospitable towards Indigenous science to-come. Braiding in the work of Torres Strait Islander scholar Martin Nakata’s theorizing of the cultural interface, which accounts for the ways in which hybridity between ways-of-knowing-in-being are unequal, problematic, and yet rife with possibility, this response takes the form of re(con)figuring scientific literacy. In four movements, this response: a) identifies scientific literacy as a central yet uncertain concept whose critical inhabitation is ripe for other meanings and enactments; b) explores Karen Barad’s subversion of scientific literacy as agential literacy as a productive location to rework the connectivity towards IWLN and TEK; c), utilizes agential literacy as proximal (yet differing) relation to bring in Gregory Cajete’s conception of Indigenous science as ecologies of relationships; and d) explores the generative points of resonance between agential literacy and ecologies of relationships. The chapter concludes with a cautionary note on points of convergence and points of divergence, wherein the proximal relation between agential literacy and ecologies of relationships is productively troubled.
Given the pervasiveness of assimilationism in Western science education (assimilation of all students, including the Other, into the dominant ontology, and epistemology), it is not surprising that most science education articles include the mandate of improving scientific literacy and then proceed to define it, or refer to it by way of usual contemporary science education definition. (Sammel, 2009, p. 653)
The purpose of this chapter is to revisit response-ability, with a focus on enfolding the homework of previous chapters into working towards a response within science education which is more hospitable to Indigenous science to-come. This response takes the form of questions of tinkering with/in curriculum and pedagogy around the singular node that is scientific literacy as “most science education articles include the mandate of improving scientific literacy and then proceed to define it, or refer to it by way of usual contemporary science education definition”. (Sammel, 2009, p. 653). Recall that response-ability, in its most succinct iteration, is “an ability to respond, to respond to the world beyond oneself, as well as a willingness to recognize its existence” (Kuokkanen, 2007, p. 39). As explored within earlier chapters, there are multiple facets that shape how science education and educators are produced, producible, and thus (un)able to respond to (and enact responsibility towards) Indigenous ways-of-knowing-in-being.1 While responsibility always precedes our coming-to-knowing-in-being, the space of response-ability from which we can account for and be accountable to these responsibilities is highly productive as it invites and requires us to consider that which shapes our very ability to respond. Yet, the space of response-ability is ever in need of an ongoing unsettling the conditions which shape our ability to respond.
However, the (re)opening of science education as a location in and from which responsibility is both perceptible and potentially enacted is not as simple as desiring it to be so. Rather, the cut between what science education is and is not must continue to be laboured in order to allow for the possibility of what science education could become: a “common ground and a basis for dialogue” (Cajete, 2006, p. 248). This, as Barad (2010) reminds, comes-to-be through the ongoing process of reworking the norms of im/possibility to alter or and altering the possible possibilities (see also Spivak, 1993/2009). In response to the complexities of the space between Indigenous and Western ways-of-knowing-in-being, the following questions guide ethical examination and design: How might science education account for and be accountable to these uneven and unequal relations of power? What kind of curriculum and pedagogy might open a space of response-ability in science education towards Indigenous science to-come? “What kind of [curriculum and] pedagogy would help students to learn about practicing responsible science?” (Barad, 2000, p. 239, emphasis mine). As the space of response-ability is always already at risk, I also ask the following herein: What kind of science education might consistently rework itself to be accountable for and towards its co-constitutive exclusions?2
In order to engage these questions, I braid in the work of Torres Strait Islander scholar Martin Nakata’s (2007a, 2007b) theorizing of the cultural interface, which accounts for the ways in which hybridity between ways-of-knowing-in-being are unequal, problematic, and yet rife with possibility. Recognizing that the cultural interface is never separate from its materiality (Nakata, 2007a, 2007b), there is a continued commitment to taking seriously the role of ontology. This bears particular significance as a Cartesian ontology is rife with onto-epistemic enactments that threaten to (fore)close the ability to respond towards a space of dialogue between TEK, IWLW, and WMS. Notably, one of the consequences of Eurocentrism and Cartesianism shaping nearly all facets of science education is that science education is often culpable of deferring and differing its attempts to work towards inclusivity by employing its associated concepts and enactments as usually defined.
In turn, I revisit and expand upon response-ability, weaving in Karen Barad’s (2010) work around this concept, as a means of further (re)opening the space of response-ability by working within, against, and beyond a primary curricular node of science education: scientific literacy. This is of particular significance as its a location in need of unsettling: it is at once upholding settler colonialism (e.g., Sammel, 2009) and sedimented (e.g., Bang, 2018). Hospitality requires that “we work constantly towards reconceptualizing our thinking and reconsidering our values” (Kuokkanen, 2007, p. 163), which becomes all-the-more important when concepts that are absently present (fore)close the possibility of hospitably receiving Indigenous science to-come.
Therefore, in four movements, I: (a) identify scientific literacy as a central yet uncertain concept whose critical inhabitation is ripe for other meanings and enactments; (b) explore Karen Barad’s subversion of scientific literacy as agential literacy as a productive location to rework the connectivity towards IWLN and TEK; (c), utilize agential literacy as proximal (yet differing) relation to bring in Gregory Cajete’s conception of Indigenous science as ecologies of relationships; and (d) explore the generative points of resonance between agential literacy and ecologies of relationships. The chapter concludes with a cautionary note on points of convergence and points of divergence, wherein I use and trouble the proximal relation between agential literacy and ecologies of relationships by suggesting that this should not be recoded as but a new location for the mirror of sameness to take hold.
Revisiting Response-Ability at the Cultural Interface
We must abandon the common (often unconscious) colonial ideas about keeping the “[I]ndigenous” (epistemes, peoples, or anything else) separate or uncontaminated to preserve its archaic nature and thereby extend its inability to intervene, dialogue, participate and disrupt. It can and it must operate within those systems, because [decolonization] is a theory and practice of transforming the academy at the level of its intellectual procedures and traditions. (Kuokkanen, 2007, p. 146)
Because we need to “begin” some-where and some-time, let’s “begin”, right here, right now, by engaging in a fulsome and differential (re)visiting of response-ability in science education.3 In moving towards a response, it is important that “we abandon the common (often unconscious) colonial ideas about keeping the ‘[I]ndigenous’ (epistemes, peoples, or anything else) separate” (Kuokkanen, 2007, p. 146) as response-ability is not simply or only the taking up of the responsibility that always already lay before us and constitute us, but also the iterative (re)opening of responsiveness towards the potentiality of perceiving and differently enacting possibilities and problematics within the distributive relations that we inherit. As a white, Euro-settler trained within the physical sciences (specifically physics) and education, I recognize the importance of not simply rejecting my tradition’s epistemic, ontological, and ethical commitments and enactments even (and especially) when they become problematic as this contextual vector always comes to bear on the potential (re)opening of responsiveness: “the process of decolonization can only emerge from within those structures of domination, from inside the institution” (Kuokkanen, 2007, p. 146). To attempt to move beyond science education without simultaneously working within and against it runs the risk of reproducing its structures, strategies, processes, and practices elsewhere, albeit differently (see Higgins, 2014a; McKinley, 2001; Sammel, 2009; see also Higgins, Madden, & Korteweg, 2015). Response-ability is a deconstructive move, an ongoing process of accounting for and being accountable to the absent yet present knowledge-practices that continuously (re)produce educational research and science education, be they problematic or rife with possibility. Even when engaging in the work of reconstructing something that is beyond what science education is and is not, the work must nonetheless, and paradoxically, be within and against simultaneously. This is of particular significance given the deep gravitational pull of Cartesianism that makes it difficult to break from its epistemological and ontological orbits (Apffel-Marglin, 2011; Barad, 2007; Battiste, 2005; Braidotti, 2013). Further, this signal the irreducible relation between reconstruction and deconstruction: the homework of response-ability must also take seriously unsettling the very tools with which we work in designing and developing curriculum, pedagogies, and methodologies in science education (see Higgins & Kim, 2019; Higgins, Wallace, & Bazzul, 2018; Higgins et al., 2017).
As Kuokkanen (2007) identifies, one important location in engaging in the (home)work of response-ability is by disrupting and displacing the (neo-)colonial desire to keep Indigenous ways-of-knowing-in-being separate from those of educational institutions, as the consequence of this move “extend[s] its inability to intervene, dialogue, participate and disrupt” (p. 146).4 Thankfully, as the mantra of beginning some-where and some-time has been ceaselessly reminding us throughout is that Indigenous and Western ways-of-knowing-in-being are always already in relation. As Blackfoot Elder and scholar Leroy Little Bear (2016) signalled in his talk, Blackfoot Metaphysics is Waiting in the Wings, there is no metaphysics that exists outside of its relationship to others. However, it is not enough to reverse this binary (i.e., replace absence with presence), it must be disrupted and displaced as well (see Spivak, 1976). When the relationship between Indigenous and Western ways-of-knowing-in-being is recognized, it is most often one that is troubled and troubling. Notably, this relationship is prevalently and problematically attributed to a decontextualized and ahistorical account of difference within many spaces, where dichotomous differences are conceived and Indigeneity is presented as deficient otherness (Donald, 2012; see also, Spivak, 1988a, 1999). However, neither Indigenous nor Western knowledges are “immune” to the influence of the other knowledge system (Harding, 2008; Little Bear, 2000, 2016). Even if it were organized as a dichotomy, it is porous and always already deconstructing in an ongoing cross-cultural becoming. Therefore, the task is not to place Indigenous and Western ways-of-knowing-in-being into relation, but rather address the (neo-)colonial structures which (re)produce this relation as one of Othering or as absent presence. Importantly, the latter is also a form of colonial containments rooted in sublating, subsuming, or suturing over Indigenous ways-of-knowing-in-being.
Further, as Tewa science educator Gregory Cajete (2006) states, “Native and Western cultures, with their seemingly irreconcilably different ways of knowing and relating to the natural world, must search for common ground and a basis for dialogue” (p. 248). There is at once a need and a possibility for dialogue across Indigenous and Western “ways of knowing and relating to the natural world” (Cajete, 2006, p. 248) despite their “very different orientations to the natural world” (Cajete 2000, p. 13). As he elaborates,
All the basic components of scientific thought and application are metaphorically represented in most Native stories of creation and origin. Indeed, both Native science and modern science have elements of the primal human story in common. They have, however, evolved very different orientations to the natural world and very different expressions of thought regarding the role of humankind in coming to know our place and our responsibility to the creative unfolding of the greater story of the universe. As we enter the… new millennium, Native and Western cultures and their seemingly irreconcilably different ways of knowing and relating to the natural world are finding common ground and a basis for dialogue. (Cajete, 2000, pp. 13–14)
The necessity bears repeating: the relationship between Indigenous and Western knowledge systems is often referred to as one of “Jagged Worldviews Colliding” (Little Bear, 2000), one that is at best as tenuous, and at worst as “seemingly irreconcilably different” (Cajete, 2000, p. 14). However, the possibility for meaningful and respectful dialogue desires further engagement, despite there already being points of resonance between IWLN, and WMS. In the next section, I think with Nakata (2007a, 2007b) in order to engage with the possibility of placing TEK, IWLN, and WMS in dialogical relation in and as science education.
Considering Methodologies and Pedagogies for/at the Cultural Interface
For spaces that are always already at the cultural interface like Indigenous knowledge systems and practices in the academy, there is perhaps a need for a “different conceptualisation of the cross-cultural space, not as a clash of opposites and differences but as a layered and very complex entanglement of concepts, theories and sets of meanings of a knowledge system” (Nakata, 2006, p. 272). While there are increasingly points of resonance within this in-between space (Peat, 2002), one should not be overly or only romantic about the possibilities (Carter, 2004, 2010). Furthermore, just as one should always be alert to the ways in which these potentially productive hybrid spaces remain contested and complicated, it is also problematic to (too easily) write them off altogether (Ahenakew, 2016; Donald, 2012; Kuokkanen, 2007; see also Spivak, 1993/2009, 1994). In other words, there continues to be a need to remain critical and complicit towards these possibilities. I agree with Nakata (2007b) who states, “not opening up theoretical positions for more complicated discussion means that the cultural interface is sutured over in favour of the Western order of things and its constitution of what an Indigenous [and ally] opposition should be” (pp. 10–11), as well as possibilities beyond opposition such as dialogue.
The cultural interface according to Nakata (2007a, 2007b) are particular discursive nodes where competing and contesting knowledge systems are positioned alongside and against each other in ways that are shaped by various discursive practices (e.g., theories, epistemic regulation, social imaginaries) that dynamically intersect with the materiality of place, space, and time. As Nakata (2007a) states, these nodes:
inform, constrain or enable what can be seen or not seen, what can be brought to the surface or sutured over, what can be said or not said, heard or not heard, understood or misunderstood, what knowledge can be accepted, rejected, legitimized or marginalized, or what actions can be taken or not taken on both individual and collective levels. (p. 199)
Not unlike Butler’s (e.g., 1993, 2005, 2010) theorization of performativity, Nakata invites us to consider that the cultural interface is not a totalized or deterministic space in which agency is foreclosed. Moreover, the interface is something you do (as knowledge-practice) rather than something that is (as knowledge) (see Chapter 3). Agency is framed by the possibilities and limitations of the cultural interface. In particular, considering agency at the cultural interface invites us to consider how the plurality of coalescing and competing forces and flows produce “the very conditions to what is possible between Indigenous and non-Indigenous positions” (Nakata, 2007b, p. 13) in their dis/continuity and uneven relationality. Negotiating these spaces is not a question of who can know or do, but rather what can be known and done through negotiating, navigating, and exploring this lived everyday tension while recognizing that:
People’s lived experience at the interface is the point of entry for investigation, not the case under investigation. It is to find a way to explore the actualities of the everyday and discover how to express them conceptually from within that experience, rather than depend on or deploy predetermined concepts and categories for explaining experience. (Nakata, 2007b, p. 10, emphasis mine)
Not unlike Kuokkanen’s (2007) conceptualization of the homework of response-ability, the work must begin from who and where we are. Importantly, it must also not end there either. For example, drawing from personal lived experience as a point of departure, I have argued with respect to decolonizing pedagogies that every attempt to work against colonization is also within colonization and inevitably reifies (neo)colonial constructs, concepts, or structures through the process (Higgins, 2014a; see Chapter 2). In turn, the cultural interface provides a rich conceptual location to consider decolonizing pedagogies as de/colonizing to explore the (neo)colonial complexities and complications that emerge through the practice of decolonizing pedagogies (see also Carter, 2004, 2010). It has been argued that the cultural interface is an incredibly productive and apt concept for situating Indigenous learners within teaching methodologies (Nakata, 2007a, 2007b),5 as well as non-Indigenous learners engaging with Indigeneity (McGloin, 2009).6 Lastly, I have also argued elsewhere (Higgins, 2014b), that this co-constitutive location is also a productive site from which to consider de/colonizing research methodologies as well as pedagogies.7
Thus, the task of placing TEK, IWLN, and WMS in dialogical relation in and as science education requires something akin to suspended action to engage with the double(d) practice of deconstructing and reconstructing science education.8 Recall from Chapter 3 that suspended action is a lived practice of dialogue and a (partial) coming-to-awareness of what we think, as well as how what we think is produced and producible (Bohm, 1996; see also Patel, 2016; Stengers, 2018). The latter entails considering how values are inflected, deferred, and deflected through our selves. This double(d) movement, which bears resemblance to Apffel-Marglin’s (2011) “reverse anthropology” (see Chapter 6), might allow us to rethink and displace the self-in-relation to the norms that shape how, who, and what we can be and do with explicit attention to the ways-of-knowing-in-being which produce Indigenous science as to-come. To engage with this task of thinking-about-how-we-think-while-we-think-it, learnings of how WMS is co-constituted by Eurocentrism and Cartesianism through the pathways tactically wandered with/in this book are enfolded into exploring a pathway forward (e.g., the practices entangled with/in WMS such as the modest witness, the enclosure, and the double-sided ledger); we move from the homework of response-ability towards and as a response. Further, my partial and contingent knowledge9 of Indigenous science also supports the (re)opening of science education for Indigenous science to-come. Such an attempt recognizes that Indigenous science and WMS are not simply different natural-cultural articulations,10 but also within unevenly distributed relations of power.
In the next section, response-ability is revisited as a means of further labouring the interface at which pedagogical and research design occur. As a continued commitment to taking seriously the role of ontology and how it shapes the what possibilities are possible with regards to the question of Indigenous ways-of-knowing-in-being within science education, I inflect the previous exploration of response-ability (see Chapter 2) with Barad’s (2010) understanding of the concept.
The Homework of Response-Ability Revisited: Towards a Reconstructive Response
To reiterate, response-ability is not responsibility in the conventional sense; it is not something that one can simply take, give, or even have. Rather, response-ability is the double(d) process of (re)opening the space of responsiveness in order to enact that responsibilities towards the co-constitutive relationships we always already find ourselves in. As signalled in Chapter 2, this process must entail addressing the ways in which science education is marked by epistemic ignorance. This is a relation with Indigenous knowledges that is not only marked by what science education does not know but also by what it refuses to know and what it cannot know. This is to say, knowledge alone is not enough when not knowing is also produced by structurally sanctioned forms of ignorance and discursively conditioned (fore)closure making coming-to-know Indigenous ways-of-knowing-in-being an impossibility (see Kuokkanen, 2007, 2010).
Entangled within questions of epistemic ignorance are also the questions of ontology and metaphysics. To assume that the Western modernist concepts we hold mirror the being of Nature problematically (fore)closes response-ability, not only by creating a dichotomy which perpetuates a deficit view of any other-than-Cartesian relation between epistemology and ontology, but this has negative consequences for ways-of-knowing-and-being that do not fully fit within the model. Furthermore, it (fore)closes the (re)opening of concepts we inherit that are both problems and possibilities to the task of responding to Indigenous science to-come. For example, and significantly, the “I” as the ethical subject of response and the larger metaphysics of individualism to which it adheres. Rather, response-ability invites a conception of subject that is distributed along, within, and throughout the relationships through which we are co-constituted. There is no transcendental “I” who can irrupt the space of responsibility from outside: the work of response-ability is always within, against, and beyond the co-constitutive relations of the “I”. In turn, the “I” of science education research (i.e., the researcher) cannot be thought or enacted of without the co-constitutive vectors that come to shape response-ability (i.e., the home of homework: discipline, history, culture, etc.).
In addition, as Peat (2002) reminds us, some natural-cultural locations are more in/hospitable than others when it comes to the work of response-ability (see also Kuokkanen, 2007; Spivak, 1988a). Points of resonance offer themselves, not as panaceas, but as vacillating spaces of possibility for the work of response-ability (see Ahenakew, 2016). Lastly, as response-ability is an ongoing and enacted process, it is generative to consider it with/in the space of theory-practice-ethics that is methodology. Response-ability is a methodological concept that not only allows for a productive deconstructive pause, but also offers a pathways towards a response: it is a rich concept with which to think in the (im)possible reconstruction of science education to allow for Indigenous science to-come.
This brings us back to and has bearing on what it means to engage in the methodological process(es) of decolonizing science education. Recall that decolonizing science education entails the double(d) process of deconstructing and reconstructing (see Battiste, 2013a, 2013b). This entails at once (re)opening (neo-)colonial structures and strategies that leverage incommensurability as a means of enacting an uneven flow of power, while simultaneously (re)constructing in a way which refuses commensurability while seeking to centre and take seriously Indigenous, diasporic, and other post-colonial ways-of-knowing-in-being in reshaping its processes and priorities. However, the very possibility of this responsibility is directly tied to the ability to respond (Kuokkanen, 2007, 2010).11 This ability to respond is, in turn, tied to the past (and future-to-come) as inheritance: not as possession, but that by which we are possessed (Barad, 2010; Derrida, 1994/2006). It is for this reason, and worth recalling, that decolonizing science education must always be both a process of deconstructing and reconstructing (and not deconstruction and reconstruction; see Jackson & Mazzei, 2012): the very tools with which any reconstruction are engaged with must also be under erasure.
In engaging with this task of response-able reconstruction, I turn to Barad’s (2010) understanding of response-ability; without too easily calling Kuokkanen’s (2007, 2010) understanding of response-ability commensurate with Barad’s (2010), or refusing the call to attempt to place the two in dialogical relation (as they are always already in relation). Providing rich inroads towards ethically, epistemologically, and ontologically responding (and being able to respond), Barad (2010) states that,
Responsibility is not an obligation that the subject chooses but rather an incarnate relation that precedes the intentionality of consciousness. Responsibility is not a calculation to be performed. It is a relation always already integral to the world’s ongoing intra-active becoming and not-becoming. It is an iterative (re)opening up to, an enabling of responsiveness. Not through the realization of some existing possibility, but through the iterative reworking of im/possibility, an ongoing rupturing, a cross-cutting of topological reconfiguring of the space of [response-ability]. (p. 265)
As Barad (2010) suggests, response-ability is the double(d) process of enabling responsiveness to enact the responsibilities which precedes and produces the “I” of responsibility. Response-ability, as an always iterative process without an origin that enfolds and unfolds the here-now and there-then, “is a relation always integral to the world’s ongoing intra-active becoming and not-becoming” (Barad, 2010, p. 265). In turn, as Barad (2010) suggests, the theory-practice-ethics of response-ability never achieves the calculable prescriptivity of conventional conceptions of responsibility but rather “require[s]/inspire[s] a new sense of a-count-ability, a new arithmetic, a new calculus” in which “one is too few, two is too many” (p. 251).12 She offers us methodological orientations towards doing the homework of response-ability and the means to consider it as a (deconstructive/)reconstructive methodology. Of particular significance here is the final sentence in which she states that response-ability is enacted “not through the realization of some existing possibility, but through the iterative reworking of im/possibility, an ongoing rupturing, a cross-cutting of topological reconfiguring of the space of response-ability” (p. 265). For each of these insights, I will place them in conversation with previous chapters’ deconstructive approaches to differentially build upon them in relation to the ongoing project of (re)opening responsiveness towards Indigenous science to-come. Furthermore, I address how these entangled insights are taken up herein.
Response-Ability as Ongoing Rupturing. The notion of ongoing rupturing here signals, yet again, and unavoidably, deconstruction.13 However, in marking and making the turn towards reconstruction, it is important to note the relationship between the two while chasing the possibility that, as Barad (2010) states, one is too few and two is too many. Deconstruction “is not about de-construction and re-construction” (Jackson & Mazzei, 2012, p. 15, emphasis in original); it is not a process of separation in which a separate agent brings in separable constituents. Rather, it is a process of differently arranging relations of co-constitutive otherness to which there is no outside from which total separation could occur. Thus, we can engage in the “undoing yet preserving of the opposition” (Spivak, 1976, p. xix) between this deconstructive/reconstructive binary opposition as they were never separate, nor separable. Not two, yet, importantly not one: there are still differentiations that come to mark the ways in which deconstruction differentiates itself from itself (i.e., never comes to be an is; see Spivak, 1993/2009; St. Pierre, 2011a). As Spivak (1993/2009) suggests, such a trajectory was marked in the way in which deconstruction was always already on the move within Derrida’s work: “the economy, in the early work, of protecting and preserving (garder) the question and, in the later, of its transformation into the call to the wholly-other (tout-autre)” (Spivak, 1993/2009, p. 109, emphasis in original). Following a similar yet differing trajectory within this book, response-ability as ongoing rupturing builds upon and differentially enacts the deconstructive moves of previous chapters. Notably, I differentially apply the deconstruction as critical and complicit (mis)readings put to work in the fourth chapter. Recall that critical and complicit (mis)reading is to work within and against a structure by differentially occupying it, by substituting what a concept, category, or construct is with what it is (not).14 By substituting what it is (not), that which could be signified by a signifier but usually is not (e.g., diffraction and prismatic dispersal as metaphors that come to replace and otherwise signify the optics of critique which operate through mirroring; see Chapter 4), differential possibilities emerge which are neither same nor wholly different by retaining (a partially erased trace of) the structure (see Derrida, 1976; Spivak, 1993/2009).
Furthermore, the task of deconstructive (mis)readings requires locating self-transgressive moments (i.e., where meaning vacillates intended meanings and its excessive constitutive otherness) to pry open the structure under erasure (Spivak, 1976). As discussed in Chapter 4, such locations are ripe for (mis)readings as that which it is (not) already comes to bear as excess; an intentional (mis)reading becomes but a leveraging of the deconstructive possibility to (re)open the structure under erasure. As deconstructive reconstruction must inevitably be within the very structure that (re)produces me, I draw from these insights to continue to critically and complicitly occupy science education, targeting the “home” of homework that is response-ability. In particular, I look to differentially signify a key location with/in science curriculum and pedagogy that are paradoxically central yet taken-for-granted: notably scientific literacy (the most frequent curricular goal of science education). This is to be achieved by doing the labour of (mis)reading these locations by substituting that which each is (not). This work begins by substituting that retains a trace of the (partially erased) structure by drawing in strongly similar yet different iterations of that which is being substituted.
However, “deconstruction is [and can be] more than working within and against a structure” (St. Pierre, 2011a, p. 613) by substituting similar yet different meanings that retain the resources of the structure; “it is also the overturning and displacement of a structure so that something(s) different can be thought/done” (St. Pierre, 2011a, p. 613). The previous deconstructive approaches are not sufficient if the reconstructive orientation is to bring in Indigenous priorities, pedagogies, and protocols so that they might come to bear; requiring of science educators that “we radically de-naturalize what we’ve taken for granted. Here we refuse alternatives and pursue the supplement [i.e., the wholly other, the to-come], what always already escapes the structure” (St. Pierre, 2011a, p. 613). Here, we can turn to Barad’s second suggestion.
Response-ability as a cross-cutting of topological reconfiguring. Barad (2007) suggests that the potentiality of deconstructive work does not lay strictly in its ability to identify the constitutive otherness of concepts, categories, and constructs. Nor does its possibility wholly reside in the always already occurring rupturing and shifting of meaning. Rather, deconstruction acts as an ongoing invitation towards an engaged act of account- and response-ability towards constitutive otherness, as well as an ever-present possibility to re(con)figure the lines of inclusion/exclusion, (re)constructing with that which was excluded. As the exclusion of constitutive otherness always comes-to-be, the work of deconstructing and reconstructing continues to be a recursive, iterative, and co-constitutive process which stems from the possibilities that arise from relationality.15
The task of response-ability is not to place peoples, places, and processes in relation: they are always already in or as relation.16 These relations, as Barad (2010) reminds, are shaped by a constant reworking of the norms of exclusion and inclusion that come to form a topology of cross-cuts,17 lines that come to shape what (temporarily) is and is not, as well as could be and the degree to which parts of the whole come to be on another part. However, because the cuts are agential, there is always the possibility of reworking how, where, and when they are made to bring seemingly distant natural-cultural elements into a relation of proximity.
To do this (home)work of response-ability, I extend the deconstructive tinkering of Chapters 5 and 6.18 Response-ability as reconfiguring a topology of cross-cutting encourages a (re)consideration of inside/outside: there is no “outside” from which to draw the tools with which the bricoleur (i.e., the tinkerer) labours but rather only new ways of differently connecting that which is already there. Within this chapter, I tinker with Indigenous-ways-of-living-with-nature not as the end result (although bricolage is always to be criticized by what is and can be engineered), but as part of the process as these ancestral and longstanding practices were never developed for the purpose of school science. Nonetheless, they offer rich tools for school science to be (re)thought and enacted otherwise.
This is of particular significance as these previous chapters also explored the technologies of power that produced metaphysical distance between that which was in a relation of natural-cultural proximity (e.g., abstracting one’s own body as labour in the proto-market economy, the enclosure and the encloser’s advantage; see Apffel-Marglin, 2011; Chapter 6); the (home)work of response-ability can be thought of and enacted as a practice that works to bring that which is distant into proximal relation. As Barad (2010) asks, “what if we were to recognize that differentiating is a material act that is not about radical separation [and distance], but on the contrary, about making connections and commitments?” (p. 266).
Such a deconstruction of the topological norms of inclusion/exclusion is, as explored in the previous approach for (re)opening response-ability, a way of working not only within and against a structure but also beyond (a beyond that is nonetheless with/in the whole). However, while deconstruction is always already happening (whether we witness it or not), what comes to occupy this differential opening is often but a simulacrum: a different similarity or a similar difference (see Higgins et al., 2015; Mazzei, 2007).19 While Barad (2010) suggests that, “only in this ongoing responsibility to the entangled other, without dismissal (without ‘enough already!’), is there the possibility of justice-to-come” (pp. 264–265), there is nonetheless strategic and tactical locations from which to do the (home)work of responsibility. Here, a third approach can help in reworking and leveraging this open-ended closure.
Response-Ability as the Iterative Reworking of Im/possibility. As mentioned within the very beginning of the chapter, dialogue between IWLN and WMS is in a perpetual state of im/possibility: they are not and never will be (fully) commensurate (see Cajete, 1994, 2000; Barnhardt & Kawagley, 2005, 2008; McKinley & Stewart, 2012; Peat, 2002). This, in turn, complicates the possibility of if and how IWLN and TEK are included with/in school science. Generously and generatively, Spivak (1993/2009) asks, What becomes possible when we persistently labour the conditions of im/possibility? In considering response-ability as the iterative reworking of im/possibility, it is important to recognize that the “field of possibilities is not static or singular but rather is a dynamic and contingent multiplicity” (Barad, 2007, p. 147). In other words, possibilities do not sit still and some possibilities are more possible than others.
Locating such possible possibilities is the work of what Cajete (1994) refers to as “creative acts of perception” (p. 19). Elsewhere, Cajete (2000) qualifies that “the idea of moving around to look from a different perspective… is contained in the creative process. Indigenous logic moves between relationships, revisiting, moving to where it is necessary to learn or to bring understandings together” (Cajete, 2000, p. 210). This idea of approaching from multiple angles provides a productive extension to the play of (re)signification that was called upon in Chapter 3. In short, the play of (re)signification signals the ways in which deconstruction is an always extended invitation to consider other possible possibilities that might take hold stemming from the inevitability of theory-practice being exceeded and self-deconstructing. Drawing from Barad, and extending my own deconstructive work that began elsewhere (see Higgins et al., 2015), we can consider deconstruction of not only binary nodes (e.g., self/other and familiar/strange), but also of binary relationships between multiple binaries (e.g., self+familiar/other+strange).
Drawing on these insights, I was on the lookout for moments in which science education’s meanings vacillate in ways that might (re)open its structures through deconstruction. While on the lookout for snags within the structure of science education (eventually identified as scientific literacy and visuality), I held awareness of the possibility of a reversal of a (porous) Western/Indigenous binary. In other words, I revisited the questions, Where might tinkering with IWLN allow for the most productive (mis)readings of science education? Where might similar yet different Indigenous theory-practices come to differentially occupy this (re)opening so that Indigenous science to come might take hold? I was inevitably searching for productive points of resonance that could be levered to prevent the structure from too easily suturing itself over, reverting to a state of self-sameness. However, iteratively, it is important to note the dangers of subsuming otherness into sameness:
the wholly other, le tout-autre, cannot be selved or samed. It is not susceptible to ipseité or mêmeté. The face of the wholly-other is without a name. The “other” that we narrativize or grasp consolidates the self, through a kind of stade du miroir [Mirror stage20]. (Spivak, 1993/2009, p. 238, emphasis in original)
That which is (not) science, such as IWLN and TEK, simultaneously existing with/in science education and yet not, as always to-come, loses its radical potentiality when it comes to bear through dialectic relations (see Chapter 3). More importantly, as Spivak (1993/2009) offers, when Otherness becomes “selved or samed,” it is because it has been subsumed, sublated, or sutured over by the same (neo-)colonial systems that rendered it Other in the first place; what is known or knowable is within the (fore)closure of Western modern thinking (see also Ahenakew, 2016). Such a sameness must be used and troubled; refusing the (full) reversal of difference as (wholly) separate, separable, and outside of relationality.
Science Curriculum and Response-Ability: Re(Con)Figuring Scientific Literacy
Putting to work the above orientations, I labour the space of response-ability within, against, and beyond the primary curricular node of science education: scientific literacy. As Sammel (2009) suggests, scientific literacy presents an important location to critically inhabit as its centrality often becomes a point in which efforts to disrupt and displace science education often become re-settled in both senses of the word:
science education may be celebrating a move towards a form of multiculturalism where ethnic differences are maintained, supported, and welcomed within the rhetoric, but in reality the infrastructural and ideological reasons for exclusion remain unchallenged and unchanged. (Sammel, 2009, p. 253)
In order to engage in the double(d) movement of unsettling science education through disrupting and displacing scientific literacy, the aforementioned three moves are put to work. Within the first part (i.e., response-ability as ongoing rupturing), I identify scientific literacy as a central yet uncertain concept whose critical inhabitation is ripe for other meanings and enactments. In the second part (i.e., response-ability as the iterative reworking of im/possibility), I identify Karen Barad’s subversion of scientific literacy as agential literacy as a productive location to rework the connectivity towards IWLN and TEK. In the third section (i.e., response-ability as the cross-cutting of topological reconfiguring), I utilize agential literacy as proximal (yet differing) relation to bring in Gregory Cajete’s conception of Indigenous science as ecologies of relationships. Lastly (i.e., response-ability as putting to work points of resonance), this (re)opening of responsiveness made possible with agential literacy and ecologies of relationships is explored as a means of moving towards a more response-able science education.
Response-Ability as Ongoing Rupturing: Scientific Literacy as Central yet Uncertain
As Barad (2000) states about scientific literacy, its importance to science education is central while its very purpose is always on the move:
There has been no shortage of rationales given on behalf of the national need for scientific literacy. Scientific literacy has been hailed as: the basis for democratic decision making about public issues; necessary for global economic competitiveness and national security; crucial for the promotion of rational thinking; a condition for cultural literacy; necessary for gainful employment in an increasingly technological world; the basis for personal decision making about health-related issues; and necessary for the maintenance of the public image of science. (Barad, 2000, p. 225)
Scientific literacy has become ubiquitous within and almost synonymous with science education (Aikenhead, 2006; Bang, 2018; Barad, 2000; Holbrook & Rannikmae, 2007; Roth, 2003). Following over four decades of use, it has become unavoidable, central, as well as the “conventional” goal of science education (Aikenhead & Elliot, 2010; Holbrook & Rannikmae, 2009). Almost anthemic, call for scientific literacy for all rings out across educational institutions and levels (e.g., curricular resources, policy). As Barad (2000) states above, there is no lack of reasons for which scientific literacy is leveraged and centred within science education; however, she asks: “what does it mean to be scientifically literate?” (p. 225).
As Roth (2003) states, “the concept of scientific literacy is itself not at all clear” (p. 11). This is not to say that it holds a meaning that is itself blurry, rather, one that might be described as ambivalent, pluralistic, and in ways that come to occasionally contradict themselves.21 As Holbrook and Rannikmae (2009) state, scientific literacy is inhabited by a multiplicity of conceptual components:
(a) Knowledge of the substantive content of science and the ability to distinguish from non-science; (b) Understanding science and its applications; (c) Knowledge of what counts as science; (d) Independence in learning science; (e) Ability to think scientifically; (f) Ability to use scientific knowledge in problem solving; (g) Knowledge needed for intelligent participation in science-based issues; (h) Understanding the nature of science, including its relationship with culture; (i) Appreciation of and comfort with science, including its wonder and curiosity; (j) Knowledge of the risks and benefits of science; and (k) Ability to think critically about science and to deal with scientific expertise. (p. 276)
The conceptual components found within this non-exhaustive list are not only differentially included/excluded but also non-uniformly enacted through following the curricular goal that is scientific literacy. It is for this reason that they state scientific literacy has been so successful in its proliferation: it “avoids the use of distracting detail and, as such, convincingly portrays a complex idea which intuitively appears to be correct” (Holbrook & Rannikmae, 2009, p. 275). Here, we find resonance with Davis (2008) who states that some of the concepts that are the most successful in achieving a degree of everywhere-ness by reaching wide academic audiences and circulation are those that are at once ambiguous and incomplete.22
Despite the conceptual ambiguity presented with/in scientific literacy, Barad (2000) states that, “most commonly, scientific literacy is thought of in terms of the successful transmission of knowledge about scientific facts and methods from knowing scientists to the ignorant masses” (p. 226, emphasis mine).23 Most commonly here signals the ways in which there is a (i.e., singular) common sense: a common sense that is at once held and by which science education and educators are held (see Chapter 5). As van Eijck and Roth (2007) remind us, drawing from Foucault (1977, 1979), the logics of science education can often be characterized as a “regime of truth”. As explored in Chapters 4 and 6, regimes of truth are marked by circular relations: each “truth” is but a differential articulation of the systems of power which produces it, whose articulation in turn (re)produces the systems of power. Such a circular relation can be read in two ways: first, as signalling a hermetic circle, a (fore)closure of knowledge (see Chapters 2 and 3); and second, as the capillary circulation of power from one conceptual node to another (see Chapter 4).24 Despite its ambivalence and the ever-present possibility of deconstructive (re)signification, it is no surprise that scientific literacy is, for the most part, (re)produced within and reproducing the norms of power of science education (see Higgins, 2014a; McKinley, 2001, 2007; Sammel, 2009; van Eijck & Roth, 2007). There has been a major paradigmatic shift in science education in the last decades which shifts the emphasis from coming to know what scientists know (i.e., cognitivism, intra-personal learning, scientific knowledge as representation of nature) to enculturation into how scientists come-to-know (i.e. socio-constructivism, inter-personal learning, scientific knowledge as representation of culture) (see Barad, 2000; Erickson, 2000; Aikenhead, 2006). As Holbrook and Rannikmae (2007) state: “no content is fundamental, but rather the content needed for enhancing scientific literacy is dependent on the culture and society in which the science education is implemented” (p. 1352). However, the “teaching practices have changed little and remain based on traditional, universalist views of science and science education” (McKinley, 2007, p. 219); common sense understandings of science, scientist, and science education most commonly come to fill these (re)opening locations (see also McKinley, 2001; Sammel, 2009).
Paradoxically, in light of the ambiguity of scientific literacy, only a small fraction of the population can be said to be scientifically literate (Barad, 2000, 2012a). Barad (2000) states:
Viewed in this way, the problem of scientific illiteracy is seen as a massive transmission failure… In light of the extraordinary monetary and intellectual resources that have been and continue to be committed to solving this problem, it is perhaps not unreasonable to ask if the metaphor itself isn’t sending the wrong signal. (p. 226)
As Holbrook and Rannikmae (2009) suggest, “the core of the idea behind scientific literacy lies in its analogy with literacy” (p. 275). By invoking literacy as a metaphor, we invoke a common sense notion that to be scientifically literate is to be able to read, interpret, and determine the validity of a multiplicity of scientific texts: scientific documentation and instrumentation, reporting on past, current, and future socio-scientific issues, the cultural practice of science, as well as Nature itself. This, as Barad (2000) states, might be “sending the wrong signal” (p. 226): a signal which (re)produces science education as an enactment of what Barad (2007) refers to as a metaphysics of individualism (see Chapters 5 and 6). This makes scientific literacy a location that is at once inadequate yet necessary, and ripe for the ongoing rupturing of response-ability through critical inhabitation for (at least) three reasons.
First, the metaphor of literacy invites a metaphysics of individualism by calling upon reading and hermeneutics: the reader is both separate and separable from the scientific “text”, both of which ontologically precede the act of reading. Furthermore, interpretive readings in/of science generally require that the reader learns through mirroring the text (when decreed as valid science) or dialectically negating the text.
Secondly, the metaphor of literacy reinforces the notion that learning to be scientifically literate is an (metaphysically) individual affair. Comparable to the ways in which we consider the act of reading as a mathematical set in which there is one reader and one text, the oft-exclaimed scientific literacy for all presupposes that each and every learner has an individualistic relationship with scientific literacy and that each and every text is separable and separate. As Roth (2003) states, this educational separation between both learner, text, and other texts produce the precondition for a problematic double(d) effect:
Scientific literacy currently means to question nature in ways such that do not, reflexively, also question science and scientists. However, worse is the other part of the current rhetoric about scientific literacy—it is to be for all. All individuals (e.g. Americans), so goes the idealist rhetoric, have to learn and exhibit certain ‘basic’ facts and skills. Just imagine, every individual taking the same (‘scientific’) perspective on GMOs, genetic manipulation of the human genome, or use of drugs (such as those used to dope certain kinds of children, labelled ‘ADHD’ (i.e. Attention-deficit, hyperactive disorder) to make them compliant). (p. 11)
In other words, the focusing of each and every student on “one” text (i.e., the science-as-usual curriculum)25 that is treated as separate and separable from other texts (e.g., scientific ethics) produces scientific literacy as, by design, un-self-reflexive. While the possibility of ethical self-reflexivity is not wholly foreclosed, it is evident that practices of scientific-literacy-as-usual focus primarily on the ways in which different students (through standardized testing) achieve different levels of attainment of the same curricular content. Furthermore, Roth (2003) appeals to curricular reason when he states that “we [science educators] all know that there simply exists too much specific knowledge for any individual to know the relevant facts even in more constrained contexts” (Roth, 2003, p. 19).
Third, like with reading, texts can be selected to be relevant to each and every reader in order to achieve scientific literacy for all. However, Barad (2000) cautions that “there’s something paradoxical about the notion that something can be ‘made’ relevant – as if relevancy could be imposed or added onto an existing structure” (p. 221). This signals the differentiation between how relevancy often plays out between theory and practice26; scientific texts can become what Barad (2000) refers to as “context-coated”. This, as signalled within the previous chapter, can reduce epistemic pluralism in science education as but different ways of achieving the same ontological location: knowing nature with/in Cartesianism. In turn, as Roth (2003) suggests, “there is more than one reason to rethink scientific literacy and to see it as an emergent collective praxis” (p. 21); scientific literacy need not presuppose a metaphysics of individualism from the get-go. Rather, “if we think of scientific literacy in different terms, as choreography of a particular kind in which we learn to participate by participating from the beginning, we take radically different approaches to teaching science in schools” (Roth, 2003, p. 19). Not unlike Chapter 4, in which critique is re(con)figured to address its normative enactments of distance and separation as the condition for knowledge, as well as the pre-epistemic and pre-ontological status of the object and subject of critique, I turn to Barad (2000, 2007, 2012b, 2012c) to think scientific literacy otherwise.
Response-Ability as the Iterative Reworking of Im/Possibility: Karen Barad ’s Shift from Scientific Literacy to Agential Literacy
Drawing from quantum physics, Barad’s (2007) theory of agential realism provides a rich location to iteratively rework the norms of im/possibility by working within and against science and science education to produce a location that might differentially allow IWLN to take hold (i.e., in ways in which it has not already, beyond integration and tolerance). Agential realism, as Barad theorizes it, questions the humanist a priori status of Nature before Culture, as well as the anti-humanist corollary statement of Culture before Nature (Barad, 2007, 2012b, 2012c; Kirby, 2011). This work disrupts the notion that Cartesianism is the (only) ontology, not by negating it but rather by positioning it as one ontological configuration among many. These configurations are presented and produced as open-ended processes that are enacted rather than static. In particular, Barad’s concept of intra-action enables us to gain insight into how relationality, flux, and process are conceptualized and enacted:
The neologism ‘intra-action’ signifies the mutual constitution of entangled agencies. That is, in contrast to the usual ‘interaction’, which assumes that there are separate individual agencies that precede their interaction, the notion of intra-action recognizes that distinct agencies do not precede, but rather emerge through, their intra-action. (Barad, 2007, p. 33)
In other words, intra-action accounts for and is accountable to the various ways in which bodies of meaning (e.g., social, cultural, political, historical) and bodies of matter (e.g., biology, ecology, physics, engineering, architecture) are co-constitutive. This acts as an invitation to consider the ways in which these bodies of meaning-matter are not only produced through Cartesian norms of bodily production (i.e., subjects and objects) but also through other-than-Cartesian entanglements that would comprise and cut across multiple Cartesian subjects and objects. This is not simply a way of redrawing the lines of bodily production (e.g., researcher + instrument interaction –> researcher-instrument intra-active entanglement), it is also a (re)consideration of how they come into being. As Barad (2012c) states,
A quantum ontology deconstructs the classical one: there are no pre-existing individual objects with determinate boundaries and properties that precede some interaction, nor are there any concepts with determinate meanings that could be used to describe their behavior; rather determinate boundaries and properties of objects-within-phenomena, and determinate contingent meanings, are enacted through specific intra-actions, where phenomena are the ontological inseparability of intra-acting agencies. (pp. 6–7)
Accordingly, the production of natural-cultural bodies and their bodily norms are enacted, in flux, process-based, and performative rather than something that always already is (or is not). Because phenomena are constitutive of reality, being can be thought as a performative and co-constitutive becoming: “reality is composed not of things-in-themselves or things-behind phenomena but of things-in-phenomena” (Barad, 2007, p. 140).
The consequences of agential realism for scientific literacy are drastic. The task of epistemologically establishing a representational (i.e., humanist) relationship of equivalence with either nature (i.e., through cognitivism) or culture (i.e., through socio-constructivism) breaks down because their separation was never a priori. Rather, Barad (2000) invites us to consider how “scientific literacy becomes a matter of agential literacy – of learning how to intra-act responsibly within the world” (p. 237) around the matters of science (i.e., space, time, and matter). This is significant as agential literacy goes beyond scientific literacy’s accounting for the diverse natural and cultural agents that constitute experimental phenomena studied and produced within the context of science education.27 First, it considers the ways in which agents are always already natural-cultural. Secondly, it accounts for the ways in which these agents not only constitute but are also constituted by phenomena. Third, agential literacy ethically re(con)figures accountability as a process of not only accounting for, but also being accountable to these agents and their intra-action in the world’s ongoing becoming.
Response-Ability as the Cross-Cutting of Topological Re(con)figuring: Gregory Cajete ’s Indigenous Ways-of-Knowing-in-Being and Science Curriculum as All my Relations
Leveraging this differential opening into WMS and, in turn, science education allows for the possibility to cross-cut the topology which presents WMS and IWLN as distant by bringing them into proximal relation. Articulating relationality, flux, and process differently and for different purposes, Tewa science educator Gregory Cajete (1994, 1999, 2000) proposes that we consider ways-of-knowing-in-being—that is, the co-substantiation of epistemology and ontology—as ecologies of relationships. These ecologies of relationships that are enacted with/in these ways-of-knowing-in-being are often referred to as both external and internal to a human(ist) subject, while noting that some of the relations external to the subject do not require a subject at all.28 Externally, we often speak of relationships with other humans, relationships with other-than-human bodies (e.g., plants, rivers, mountains), as well as relationships with more-than-human bodies (i.e., spiritual beings) (see also Apffel-Marglin, 2011). Internally, the relationships between heart, mind, body, and spirit are often called upon.
Furthermore, the boundary between exteriority and interiority is one that is porous, and it is this porosity that allows us to be with/in relation. This ontological porosity extends to space and time to make being in the world a question of process, flux and holistically being of the world rather than in. As Cajete (1994) states, “a constant building upon earlier realities is a basic characteristic of Indigenous processes… [in which] we engineer the new reality built upon earlier ones, while simultaneously addressing the needs, and acting in the sun, of our times” (p. 27). The intentionality here signals that Cajete’s ecology of relationships (sometimes referred to as “sense of place”) is not simply a way-of-knowing-in-being in which the world is enacted through the flux of relationships, but that there is also an ongoing accounting for and accountability to the ecology of relationships such that it is (re)generated and sustained.29 It is for this reason that Cajete (2000) reminds us that within many Indigenous languages there is an expression akin to “all my relations” (e.g., Mitakuye Oyasin in Lakota). “All my relations” is an epistemological, ontological, and ethical accounting for and being accountable to the ecologies of relationships we find ourselves in and constituted by which extends beyond the immediate present to include generations past and those still yet-to-come. It is a metaphysical principle through and by which Indigenous “people understood [and understand] that all entities of nature – plants, animals, stones, trees, mountains, rivers, lakes and a host of other living entities – are embodied [and co-constitutive] relationships that must be honoured” (Cajete, 2000, p. 178).
An Indigenous science education curriculum of “all my relations” has been in place since time immemorial in the form of land- or place-based education (Cajete, 1994, 1999, 2000; see also Aikenhead & Michell, 2011; Kawagley, 2006). Despite disruption by ongoing (neo-)colonial practices, Cajete (2000) reminds us that Indigenous knowledge holders continue to engage these traditional yet ever-evolving contemporary ways-of-knowing-in-being by “seeking, making, sharing, and celebrating” (p. 178) the ecological relationships they find themselves with/in.30 Accordingly, with/in Cajete’s (1994, 1999, 2000) conception of Indigenous science education, scientific literacy would not simply be a task of knowing about nature but rather knowing-in-being with nature as an inseparable and co-constitutive part of the ecologies of relationships in order to learn “the subtle, but all important, language of relationship” (Cajete, 2000, p. 178).
This teaching of knowing-in-being with is woven into and enacted through traditional Indigenous approaches to teaching and learning, such as Indigenous storywork (e.g., Archibald, 2008). As Barnhardt and Kawagley (2008) remind us, while Indigenous stories hold rich representations of nature (i.e., knowledge about nature when read with/in Cartesian representationalism), their potential lies in honouring a knowing-in-being with the plants, the animals, and a wide range of other-than-human bodies that are teachers with/in the ecologies of relationships particular to a place. As a pedagogy through which Indigenous peoples “came [and come] to perceive themselves as living in a sea of relationships” (Cajete, 2000, p. 178), it is a way to witness already existing relations and foster the possibility of new ones.
This is significant within science education wherein, as explored within the previous curricular section, to be scientifically literate largely becomes a function of being able to “read” nature (and others’ accounts of nature). However, to know with nature rather than about as a pedagogical framing (re)opens the space of response-ability for both educators and students, albeit a potentiality that is not always actualized.
Response-Ability as Putting to Work Points of Resonance: (Re)Thinking Scientific Literacy at the Cultural Interface
Through the potentiality of this proximal relation between Barad’s agential realism and Cajete’s ecologies of relationships, it becomes productive to explore and leverage both their similar differences and differing similarities (see Bohm, 1994) in working towards a response, a more response-able science education.31 Notably, thinking with both, and the points of resonance between, encourages considering the ways in which bodies that are typically considered natural, rather than cultural, to have agency. To begin to consider other-than-human beings as agentic is a deeply productive step in the direction of taking seriously Indigenous science to-come, particularly the Indigenous notion that the plurality of other-than-human bodies such as animals, plants, rocks, rivers, constitute a sentient landscape which is always already teaching us, should we choose to and/or be able to listen with (Cajete, 1994, 1999, 2000; Marker, 2015). As Leroy Little Bear puts it “trees talk to you, but you don’t expect them to speak in English or Blackfoot” (in Peat, 2002, p. 288). Articulated otherwise, place can be thought of as anthropogenic (i.e., cultural landscapes that are not “pure” of human interaction; e.g., spectres of humanity across the Amazon rainforest; see Apffel-Marglin, 2011); but it is important to simultaneously recognize that its agency in producing meanings and matterings does not solely reside in its hybrid human-other-than-human relations. This is significant to taking seriously as a “sense of place” is central to Indigenous science to-come: landscapes remember as they bear the markings of their own entangled becomings (see Apffel-Marglin, 2011; Barad, 2007; Cajete, 2000). “Hearing” the stories that place might tell requires attunement to the unique relationships that shape the ecologies of relationships we find ourselves in, an attunement Indigenous ways-of-knowing-in-being that have practiced in places that have co-constituted these practices since time immemorial (Cajete, 2000, 2006).
Further, thinking with ecologies of relationships and agential literacy disrupts and displaces the metaphysics of individualism. Again, it is through the metaphysics of individualism that the humanist subject maintains and (re)produces power through distance and separation, as well as how humanism separates, distances, and organizes space, time, and matter (i.e., Nature). Significantly, it obscures and obfuscates ongoing accounting for and accountability to the ways in which we are always already iteratively, epistemologically, and ontologically co-constituted (Barad, 2007, 2010, 2012b). Thinking with both Cajete and Barad invites us to think about the ways in which agency is distributed and enacted intra-actively across all my relations. Barad (2007) refers to the “doing” and “undoing” of intra-action as posthumanist performativity.32 In turn, this grants materiality a similar flux and undecidability, and in the process extends the range as to which bodies can and do engage in performativity, as well as the norms by which bodies come into being.33 As Barad (2007) reminds us, the ways in which we enact our intra-actions matter because “each one reconfigures the world in its becoming – and yet they never leave us; they are sedimented into our becoming, they become us” (p. 394). In other words, it speaks to all my relations: the ways in which we enact our ecologies of relationships leave their marks upon the bodies connected with/in the entanglement. Importantly, disrupting and displacing the metaphysics of individualism is refusing and resisting its (fore)closure of ongoing and ever-needed possibilities for ethics (see also Apffel-Marglin, 2011; Cajete, 1994, 1999, 2000; Peat, 2002).
Further, thinking with posthumanist performativity helps us think about non-linear temporality and its subversive potentiality through ontological indeterminacy. Rather than using the language of predictability and certainty implied through a linear and causal relationship between past natural and cultural events towards an ever-certain present, considering time as an ontological indeterminacy invites thinking with a natural-cultural future as a possible possibility that shapes the present with/in a non-linear causal relationship: Does the past produce the present? Does the present shape the past? What about the relationships with the future? On time, Barad (2007) states:
Time is not a succession of evenly spaced individual moments. It is not simply there as substance of measure, a background uniformly available to all beings as a reference or an ontological primitive against which change and stasis can be measured. (p. 180)
For Barad, time is performative and comes into dis/continuous being through its enactment. This dis/continuous being, or to vacillate between being and not being, is, in short, what it means to be ontologically indeterminate. If even the past is open to being re(con)figured (e.g., quantum tunneling; see Barad, 2007) in the present, then what happens to the temporal linear causality that WMS relies upon to make knowledge claims? What if time were always already an entangled variable to account for and be accountable to rather than a control (or controllable substance)?
This resonates with Indigenous ways-of-knowing-in-being that recognize that the world itself is in flux and in process such that it might be more appropriate to state that it is ontologically becoming rather than being. Such ontological indeterminacy has significant consequences for pedagogy. For Cajete (1994), “learning involves a transformation that unfolds through time and space” (p. 54) and that enfolds space and time (see also Peat, 2002). This is significant as it makes space for a plurality of ways-of-knowing-in-being to include other ways of enacting temporality such as Indigenous forms and flows of time such as non-Euclidian circularity (Cajete, 1994, 2000; Peat, 2002). Also, considerations of time as enfolded and time as always already more than an inert, immutable, and linear backdrop upon which nature and culture play-out invites an ongoing consideration of the ways in which time makes itself intelligible through its entangled performativity with other agencies. This becomes all-the-more meaningful when considering the ways in which a future temporalities are often overcoded by a singularizing (neo-)colonial settler futurity.
The ways in which multiple space-time-matterings make their presence known in singular instances in bi-directional causal ways invites us to not only consider how the past shapes the present and the futures-to-come, but also how the plurality of undeterminable futures shape the present, as well as the past. This non-linear causality invites us not only to consider how we are shaped by potential futures-to-come, but more importantly, how we are always already ethically bound to these potentialities that we can never fully come to know. As Cajete (1994) states, “everything leaves a track, and in the track is the story: the state of being of each thing in its interaction with everything else” (pp. 55–56). Potential futurities are always already with/in us. In turn, there is always an ethical hope in the subversive potentiality of the future as it is always at once yet-to-come and not-yet-to-come.
Conclusion: Response-Able Design as a Hospitable Move Towards Indigenous Science to-Come
The question of hospitality will never come to a close, nor should it – the moment we consider the problem solved, we arrive at a totalizing closure…. Hospitality is a productive crisis in which we work constantly towards reconceptualizing our thinking and reconsidering our values – in other words, we move beyond the disruptive, hegemonic, and exploitative exchange paradigm and its priorities towards a new relationship in which the academy is compelled to recognize and accept its responsibility toward the “other.” (Kuokkanen, 2007, p. 163)
The potentiality of deconstructive work lays neither strictly in its ability to identify the constitutive otherness of concepts, categories, and constructs, nor in meaning that inevitably ruptures and shifts what science is and is (not). Rather, the key ongoing possibility towards an engaged act of account- and response-ability towards constitutive otherness is an ever-present invitation to reconstruct with that was excluded. In other words, after Kuokkanen (2007), it is an ongoing call to hospitality, one which “will never come to a close” (p. 163). As we continue moving towards curricular and pedagogical practices of science education that productively and respectfully inhabits the cultural interface between WMS and IWLN, it is important to remember that pluralism in science education does not simply imply there are different epistemological means of approaching the same ontological reality to generate similar results. To this, Latour (1993) reminds that some epistemological means are nonetheless positioned as superior to others through particular universalism (some usually being Western modern epistemologies). As St. Pierre (2011a) suggests:
We move away from Plato’s gift of ontological determination, a logic of identity [i.e., self-sameness] and prediction – science is this; science is not that – toward a logic of the “and” – This and this and this and this… (p. 613, emphasis in original)
We can move away from ontology (as the Being of beings) not through negation, but as a coming to recognize it as but one ontological possibility among many. It is for this reason that Barad (2000) claims adaptation of science education is never simply one of “candy coating” the content with relevant material; rather, “questions of relevancy are intertwined with questions of subjectivity and epistemic responsibility” (p. 222).
However, responsibility and responsiveness are not enough for hospitality to take hold. Rather, responsibility and responsiveness also require the ability to respond. This insight became the methodological drive herein via the concepts of the cultural interface (Nakata, 2007a, 2007b) and, again, response-ability (see Barad, 2010; Kuokkanen, 2007, 2010; Spivak, 1994). Braiding in Barad’s (2010) conception of response-ability, as well as the previous deconstructive approaches in previous chapters, (re)opening the space of response-ability was explored through three co-constitutive strategies: (a) response-ability as ongoing rupturing; (b) response-ability as the cross-cutting of topological re(con)figuring; and (c) response-ability as the iterative reworking of im/possibility. These three approaches were then leveraged to re(con)figure curriculum and pedagogy around the central yet conceptually ambiguous node of scientific literacy; a generative snag in the fabric of science education.
Identifying scientific literacy’s necessary yet inadequate, prevalent yet ambiguous, status within science education made it a rich curricular location from which to engage in the work of response-ability. As “learning and teaching are occurring at all times, at all levels, and in a variety of situations” (Cajete, 1994, p. 40), science curriculum could be then re(con)figured with/in the relational ways-of-knowing-in-being that co-substantiate it. Agential realism and Indigenous science here provide important insights into the entanglement of knowing and being, as well as how we might imagine them otherwise in the pursuit of knowing nature (i.e., scientific literacy).
There are rich points of convergence between Barad’s agential realism and Cajete’s ecologies of relationships which offer themselves as locations to labour in the name of hospitality towards Indigenous science to-come. Namely, both are ways-of-knowing-in-being that are shaped by ethics, accountability, and responsibility to the (re)generation of that which we, as humans, co-constitute and are co-constituted by. However, to only focus on commensurability is to employ the metaphor of the mirror; commensurability then becomes an act of mirroring sameness elsewhere, dialectically subsuming into or sublating through sameness patterns of difference, as well as making it difficult to account for and be accountable to the enactment of difference. Further, while there are deep and productive points of resonance between quantum and Indigenous ontologies, there are still patterns of difference that matter. Significantly, where quantum physics is a recent phenomenon in which WMS is irrevocably facing its ontological limits and limitations (see Barad, 2007, 2010; Peat, 2002), Indigenous ways-of-knowing-in-being have been developed, practiced, and honoured since time immemorial with a built-in ethic of (re)generation and sustainability (see Cajete, 1994; Kawagley, 2006). Constitutive of these ways-of-knowing, and also another difference that matters, is the relationship to spirituality and more-than-human beings. Placing the two in relation without conflating them has great consequences for what scientific literacy is, is not, and, perhaps most importantly, could be: a site which recognizes that “the question of hospitality will never come to a close” (Kuokkanen, 2007, p. 163).
Notably explored herein: (a) enactments of adversarial dialectics that place science and ethics as binary opposites (see Chapter 3); (b) the mirror metaphor that comes to mask epistemic and ontological becomings, while protecting (from) critical engagement (see Chapter 4); as well as (c) the ways in which “common sense” create a circular logic that comes to simultaneously uphold and conceal an ontology of Cartesianism and its inseparable ethical and epistemological assumptions and enactments (Chapters 5 and 6).
Significantly, asking questions of ethics before-the-fact (i.e., what would be or might be responsible) rather than after-the-fact (i.e., what is or has been responsible) is in alignment with being accountable to the agential cuts that we enact (see Chapter 6) and attempts to heed Barad’s (2012a) cautionary note that the “notion of consequences is [often] based on the wrong temporality: asking after potential consequences is too little, too late” (p. 53). To uphold these commitments to ethical questions focus on pedagogical design, rather than simply or only those of delivery.
Nonetheless, delivery is a component of any curriculum or pedagogy: the lived enactment of either always exceeds the ways in which they are planned for (see Aoki, 1991/2005). Part of the challenge is designing pedagogies that work towards (re)opening spaces that are (fore)closed so that there may be the possibility of radical hospitality in the lived encounter.
Furthermore, as explored in Chapter 6, “design” (i.e., research design) is a notion that is often overcoded by a theory/practice binary (which is co-constituted with/by a Nature/Culture binary) in which design often pre-exists practice, rather than always already being entangled within its production. In turn, this chapter is not about translating “theory into practice” (which presupposes separation and separability) but rather translating the theory-practice of earlier chapters into a differentially contextualized theory-practice (see Higgins, Madden, Berard, Lenz Kothe, & Nordstrom, 2017).
Whereas the refrain of beginning some-where and some-time has been utilized throughout the book to generally signal the ways in which we are all always already within the question of Indigeneity and that there are a multiplicity of spatial and temporal locations to critically inhabit, there are moments in which right-here, right-now is also a generative point of engagement that should not be dismissed, particularly if it accounts for and is accountable to a futurity which cannot yet be anticipated, that which is to-come.
With respect to higher education generally, Kuokkanen (2007) states, “if the academy only welcomes what it is ready to welcome – that is, what it recognizes and what it considers it must welcome – it is not hospitality” (p. 131). Rather, what is needed is an unconditional welcome. Such an unconditional welcome is not only the possibility of (re)opening the norms of responsiveness towards a (co-)constitutive yet othered body of knowledge (here, Indigenous ways-of-living-with Nature), but also the very possibility of a continued existence: If disciplinary spaces such as science education profess an “unlimited commitment to the truth”, (Kuokkanen, 2007, p. 139) it cannot do so without explicitly recognizing the plurality of ways-of-knowing-in-being and taking seriously what they have to offer in terms of pursuing truth-finding. Here, the temporality of a future to-come marks not only an arrival that cannot be predicted (which will require radical hospitality), but also the temporality of the continued existence of disciplinary spaces:
The ethics and the future of the academy require hospitality. Without openness to the “other,” responsibility toward the “other,” there can be no future of and in the academy. The future of the university will be found in its openness to the “other.” This openness will have to involve more than merely opening doors to [I]ndigenous peoples while dismissing or failing to recognize their epistemes. (Kuokkanen, 2007, pp. 139–140)
Again, for this work of hospitality to manifest, there is homework to be done to (re)open spaces foreclosed by epistemic ignorance. The work of a response in a future-to-come cannot be separated from the homework of response-ability; in a future-to-come in which homework has been engaged with, there will be no possibility of disavowal. That part of this (home)work is coming to know the limits to what is and can be known from within our spaces: the threshold of knowledge. As Kuokkanen (2007) states, “in order to have a future, the academy will have to acknowledge the threshold; only in this way will it accept its responsibility and be able to respond” (p. 141). Similarly, within science education, our ability to respond to Indigenous ways-of-knowing-in-being shapes our very ability to have a future: the irreducible link to Indigeneity through its othering also binds the disciplinary space to what it can be and become. The homework of response-ability is not only a radical reversal of the gaze, but also a commitment to the sustaining of a home (and also one that might be hospitable towards Indigenous science to-come).
Recall from Chapter 3, and its cultural homework of response-ability, that one of the ways in which scientific knowledge could be (re)considered as a knowledge-practice (among many) was to extend science’s internal dynamism and heterogeneity outwards by considering the complex and conflicting ways in which WMS, IWLN, and TEK interact and interface. As a knowledge-practice, this interface is not a location that simply is but rather is a doing. It is an enactment that is often marked by the assumption that cultural traits are separate and separable. This renders invisible: (a) the many elements of WMS that stem from non-Western cultural sciences and vice versa, as well as their respective historicities; (b) the complex co-constitutive and cross-cultural scientific knowledge production processes; and, (c) the complexities that occur at the currently lived and differently situated cultural interfaces that both they and their students occupy (see Belczewski, 2009; Snively & Corsiglia, 2001; van Eijck & Roth, 2009; see also Kuokkanen, 2007).
For Nakata (2007a), this is the work of engaging with Indigenous standpoint theory,
a method of inquiry, a process for making more intelligible ‘the corpus of objectified knowledge about us [Indigenous peoples]’ as it emerges and organizes understanding of our lived realities. [It is] theorizing knowledge from a particular and interested position — not to produce the ‘truth’ of the Indigenous position but to better reveal the workings of knowledge and how understanding of Indigenous people is caught up and implicated in its work. (p. 215)
McGloin (2009) adds the rejoinder that the labouring of one’s position vis-à-vis the cultural interface is a task that befits not only Indigenous peoples as the tensions at the interface affect each and everyone one of us (as we are always already in relation), albeit differentially. Particularly, she states that for Western academics and educators, forging a standpoint by criticaclly engaging with the ways in which the self at the cultural interface is produced and producible allows for the possibility of differently inhabiting this Indigenous-Western interface that is often characterized by a unidirectional dialectic negation.
Specifically, I argue that the cultural interface is a useful concept for considering similarly situated research methodologies because the suturing over at the cultural interface does not only occur on any particular (human) body but also occurs upon many bodies of knowledge. As these include bodies of methodological knowledge, the complex and complicating ways in which this over-writing occurs need to be worked within and against (see also Higgins & Kim, 2019).
While not dismissing the importance of finding ways of relating Indigenous and Western ways-of-knowing-in-being through complementarity rather than contradiction (i.e., dialogue), and highlighting the need for suspended action, Ahenakew (2016) cautions that this “becomes a problem when we cannot recognize what is lost in translation” (Ahenakew, p. 333). To animate translation as a significant, yet complex and complicated node of the cultural interface, Ahenakew (2016) uses the metaphor of grafting:
Grafting is used in biology as the process of transplanting something from one organism into another (e.g., hybrid plants or cell/skin implants). Grafting, in itself, is neither good nor bad. Indeed, hybridity can be a generative process. However, in the context of grafting Indigenous knowledges into non-Indigenous ways of knowing, we are operating with severely uneven environments shaped by historical circumstances where the grafting/hybridizing does not happen as a mutual exercise, but as assimilation. Grafting, in this sense, can further contribute to the elimination of Indigenous peoples as distinct Indigenous peoples both in their relationship with the state, in their relation to the land, and in terms of the perceived worth of their knowledge. (Ahenakew 2016, p. 325)
For example, the presupposition that ontology precedes epistemology (so that all knowledge claims map onto the same ontological reality) would act as a form of knowledge-as-ignorance. This would result in an enactment of “a kind of grafting that seems to maintain primary loyalty to accepted notions of time, progress, reality, and being” (Ahenakew, 2016, p. 333). In turn, Ahenakew’s (2016) concept of grafting invites an ongoing rethink(ing) of the very possibility of braiding together these paradigms with decolonizing goals in mind, without abandoning the project.
Rather, there is a need to (at)tend to the graft. Here, the word play is productive, because not only does Ahenakew invite us to attend to the ways in which grafting becomes a site in which (neo-)coloniality plays out, but also signals the ways in which there is simultaneously a tendency towards these dynamics as well. Importantly, this impossibility does not let us off the hook (as what becomes possible when we strive towards the impossible?). Rather, it is a call to be cognizant of “the utilitarian risk to all-too-quickly instrumentalize and embrace Indigenous research methodologies as quick-fix solutions to or escapes from deep-rooted and ongoing (neo)colonial thinking” (Ahenakew, 2016, p. 323).
What would it mean to engage in a less innocent cross-cultural methodological design that accounted for and was accountable to what is lost through grafting in science education? Ahenakew (2016) suggests transforming this impossibility into a generative indeterminacy:
For those of us writing within academia, the first small step we need to take is to make grafting visible. Making grafting visible means writing in a way that makes what is invisible noticeably absent so that it can be remembered and missed. (Ahenakew, p. 333)
It is a call to not make visible that which is absent (and made absent through colonial logics) but rather make visible its absence so that it can be missed and remembered, as the attempt to narrativize the un-narrativizable (within the grammar of Western modernity) only traps us in positions where we think we have represented but rather we have lost things in translation. (At)tending to the graft is a form of response-ability that accounts for and is accountable to the very limits of the systems that we inherit and inhabit.
Partial knowledge does not reduce or dismiss responsibility: all knowings are partial and contigent. Furthermore, partial knowings are nonetheless knowings (see Butler, 2005).
Further, it bears repeating that they are also not differing cultural articulations of Nature, particularly as this framework almost always becomes what Latour (1993) refers to as particular universalism: a relativist approach in which one position (that of Western modernity) comes to be the (most) correct one from which to observe the phenomena. Further, it dictates Nature’s operations without Nature’s consent. This matters greatly in learning (from) Indigenous science: coming-to-know partially entails learning from what other-than-humans have to teach (e.g., Cajete, 1994, 2000).
Recall from the first chapter that fully embracing incommensurability brought with it its own set of challenges: the possibility of response requires a certain commitment to a certain degree of commensurability (e.g., dialoguing across difference). As Kuokkanen (2007) puts it: “even if one is sometimes tempted to embrace more pessimistic view that modern and Indigenous epistemes are incommensurable, the academy will move forward only by committing itself to responsibility and thus, responsiveness” (p. 101).
Here, the sense of one being too few and two too many is a criticism of the ways in which Western modern thinking, and even some of its responses, has a difficult time conceptualizing a response beyond wholistic one-ness and dichotomous two-ness such that more subtle and nuanced forms of difference might exist such that multiple partial connections exist and proliferate.
Ongoing rupturing, here, also signals the ways in which deconstruction happens: the structure under erasure is always already in a state of ongoing rupturing (Jackson & Mazzei, 2012). As such, the structure of science education cannot and should not be recognized as a closed form whose knowability precedes rupturing (despite claims otherwise). However, as with other deconstructive moves which stem from witnessing deconstruction, it is to pay attention to the deconstructive potentiality of irruptions as not all irruptive possibilities are desirable and not all are critically generative. This is why Derrida (1976) reminds us that deconstruction critiques itself.
Recall that is (not) signifies that which is otherwise unintended but still retains, albeit differently, the structure being critically inhabited (see Chapter 4).
On the subject of relationality, Kirby (2011) reminds us that:
Relationality is not an “in-between” the de-tailing of entities. If the Earth’s grammar is necessarily internal, a shifting algorithm, than any “part” of the Earth would be a virtual geometry with hologrammatic resonance rather than a separated entity, broken off from its larger and now absent, or perhaps still attached totality. (p. 39, emphasis in original)
In Quantum Anthropologies, Vicky Kirby (2011) re-reads Derrida’s (1976) iconic statement that “there is nothing outside the text” (Derrida, 1976, p. 163) by juxtaposing it to the earlier one that there is “[no] outside of metaphysics” (Derrida, 1976, p. 19) to consider the ways in which “there is no outside of Nature” (Kirby, 2011, p. 38). This is of particular significance within science education where post-structuralism’s primary focus on Culture and cultural indetermination have made it such that a too simple reading of these approaches can be read as a jettisoning of the very concept of science: knowing nature, as well as knowing Nature (i.e., the metaphysical relation between space, time, and matter; see Barad, 2011). This is “not to suggest that we need to ‘get real’ and add Nature’s authorship to this strange text as if Culture’s inadequacies might be healed by a natural supplement” (p. 13). Rather as in the above block quotation by Kirby, it is to explore a relational conception of the world in which Derridean relationality does not preclude Nature. By refusing to revert Nature to a pre-critical status and to consider Nature and Culture as separate and separable, Kirby (2011) suggests Nature-Culture as a constitutive wholeness that never achieves one-ness. From this, relationality emerges not as the by-product of entities (i.e., de-tailing) but is the always already active constitution of a co-constitutive part/whole (see also Barad, 2007, 2010; Cajete, 1994; Peat, 2002).
As Donald (2012) remarks, because there already exists an Indigenous-Western relationality which is often but not always marked by coloniality, there is always the possibility of enacting it anew, differently, with a decolonizing ethic. Furthermore, as explored within the previous chapter, even the “One Truth” of science is inevitably related to the very things that it oppositionally defines itself against (e.g., Indigenous science, metaphysics).
This is not unlike the current geopolitical lines that are entangled with/in nationhood. These, as Marker (2015) reminds by drawing from Coast Salish peoples’ navigation of the US–Canada border, are cultural enactments that do not transcend culture but are rather entangled with/in culture (i.e., Coast Salish people enact a differential spatial enactment of who they are which exceeds and is exceeded by current geopolitical conditions).
To quickly recap (from Chapter 5), deconstructive tinkering is first and foremost a process of reversing and (re)opening the engineering/bricolage binary through: (a) the use of tools otherwise unintended for the task at hand; (b) using intended tools in ways they were not intended; and privileging the process over the product as the “product” of knowledge creation never (fully) comes to be (see Derrida, 1976).
While one of the ways in which the deconstruction that is always already happening can be read is in the inevitable rupturing of any and every structure, it does not always come to present the norms of power through which the structure comes to (re)produce itself as a simulacrum of its former self. Elsewhere (Higgins et al., 2015), I noticed the ways in which educators who began the inclusion of Indigenous materials in their teaching practice differently articulated coloniality (e.g., presenting an image of Indigenous peoples as pan-Indigenous and of a past already past). Such rearticulates the need to continuously focus on a process as opposed to a product (e.g., a “decolonized” curriculum which may come to mask the ways in which it continues to uphold colonialism; see also Carter, 2004, 2010).
The mirror stage, drawing from Lacanian psycho-analytics, is when the Imaginary we hold dialectically (in)takes the Real, producing cuts which prevent the wholly other from being anything more than what can already be known. This is of particular relevance considering the ways in which IWLN and TEK are often only considered science when they fit the criteria of “valid” science (which often happens to be that of WMS).
So much so that Holbrook and Rannikmae (2009) go on to state that despite or because of the prevalence of the term (i.e., scientific literacy), there are science educators who would prefer the adoption of more conceptually precise terms in its stead.
Davis (2008) makes the case for the popularity and pervasiveness of the concept of intersectionality in the social sciences.
Not only this, but Roth (2003) reminds us that these facts are often but “a faint and distorted image of scientists’ science”. (p. 10; see also Aikenhead & Michell, 2011; Aikenhead & Ogawa, 2007; McComas, 1998). Furthermore, scientific literacy is complicated by the notion that “it is assumed that it is the scientists’ place to define what should be known in the field. Why should this be when at other times and places scientists claim a lack of interest in how science is used and taught?” (Roth, 2003, p. 12; see also Barad, 2000). The stance of Modest Witness (see Chapter 6) that is often held by the subject of scientific inquiry is diametrically at odds with the subject of education to whom they are accountable to(wards).
It is not uncommon to see statements like the following: “A common rationale given for studying science subjects in school is the achievement of scientific literacy” (Holbrook & Rannikmae, 2007, p. 1347). However, when the most common understanding of scientific literacy is “studying science”, such statements achieve a certain circularity (in both senses) by distributing its collective meaning across its similar yet different articulations of science-as-usual (Roth, 2003; van Eijck & Roth, 2007).
With respect to circularity, Bang (2018) suggests that scientific literacy has become so dogmatic that it is not only circular, but also ouroborossified (in the image of a snake eating its own tail), only accepting to intake itself in a monstrous cycle of associated with “greed, appetite, self-destruction, and endlessness” (p. 809) as well as an ahistorical self-genesis (p. 809). Further, Bang (2018) makes the case that scientific literacy is an example what Deleuze (1994) refers to as a “dogmatic image of thought”. In other words, “what has developed sociohistorically to represent thought and stop people from thinking beyond a sedimented, stagnant, and stratified notion of the ‘actual’” (Bazzul, Wallace, & Higgins, 2018, p. 824). Resonant with the post-colonial notion of foreclosure (e.g., Spivak, 1999), the result of such an image of thought is that “these unchallenged, basic definitions [of scientific literacy] exist even in (the most) well-intended science curriculum” (Bazzul et al., 2018, p. 826).
However, even a science-as-usual curriculum fails to achieve one-ness as it is always already co-constituted by a variety of texts: both intentionally (e.g., sources) and unintentionally (e.g., the relational act of reading is inter-textual and brings other texts to bear on the meaning made).
Or more appropriately how, as Lenz Taguchi (2010) suggests, theory is always already entangled within practice (see also Carter, 2010; Spivak, 1988a).
It is worth noting that Barad (2007) encourages anthropomorphism (i.e., attributing cultural values to otherwise deemed acultural bodies) if it can be put to the service of working against anthropocentrism (i.e., the centring of humans).
As Cajete (2000) states, Indigenous ways-of-knowing-in-being entail a “reciprocal compact of care and responsibility” (p. 183) that is an ongoing enactment (rather than an ontologically pre-existing quality) that is deeply creative, co-constitutive, and relational. However, this enactment is not one that is only human, or necessarily co-constituted with humans:
Creative use of the environment guaranteed its continuity, and Indigenous peoples understood the importance of allowing their land its rich life because they believed their land understood the value of using humans. If humans could use the land, the land would also use them to enrich it and keep it alive. They and the place they lived were equal partners in life. (Cajete, 2000, p. 204)
It is one that is also co-constitutively enacted by the various beings, both other-than-human and more-than-human, which come to inhabit an ecology of relationships (see also Apffel-Marglin, 2011; Cajete, 1994).
As Cajete (2000) suggests, such accounting for and accountability to the ecology of relationships has much to do with the notion that these relations are the precondition for Indigenous ways-of-knowing-in-being rather than simply a choice that is chosen or taken up by separate and separable entities:
The land nurtures humans and humans nurture the land, the foundation of a reciprocal compact of care and responsibility, which is continually reaffirmed through the various expressions of Native technology. Given this special relationship, the separation of culture and nature would be considered unnatural. Likewise, the separation of humankind from nature and the creation of discrete categories for viewing nature inherent in [most of] the disciplines of Western science would be viewed as equally unnatural and arbitrary (p. 183).
Extending this, the Nature/Culture binary is not only a (neo-)colonial imposition, but furthermore, as mentioned throughout, reading the world through such a binary fails to account for the ways in which knowing (i.e., epistemology) and being (i.e., ontology) are entangled within Indigenous ways-of-knowing-in-being (Cajete, 2000; see also Apffel-Marglin, 2011; Bang & Marin, 2015).
Castellano (2000) outlines three foundations of Indigenous knowledge: traditional knowledge (intergenerational), empirical knowledge (gained through careful observation), and revealed knowledge (acquired through dreams, visions, and intuitions). To these three Cajete (2009) added a fourth: modern knowledge. This last foundation involves the participation in “modern” practices so that it may complement the other foundations. It is important to recall that modernity does not always entail Western modernity. As scientific and technological products and processes are taken up, the often-held assumption is that they remain unaffected. Instead, what traditions these scientific technologies suture over and, more important, how these technologies are shaped by these traditions should be considered (see also Harding, 2008; Nakata, 2007a).
Importantly, Kuokkanen (2007) suggests that the homework of response-ability is marked by “more than new pedagogy, although pedagogical changes would follow as a result” (Kuokkanen, 2007, p. 153). For example, these insights were woven into a pedagogical response in the form of an interdisciplinary curricular inquiry that is beyond the scope of this book. Named Visually Storying Relationships with Nature, this was a pedagogical project involved two middle-school classes in an urban school in Metro Vancouver for a one-month period. It encouraged participants not to “read” nature through scientific literacy but rather to narrate with nature as a form of agential literacy that fostered an ecology of relationships: producing photography-assisted comic books which told such relational stories with Nature (see Higgins, 2016a; see also Higgins, 2014b, 2016b).
This extends the Butlerian notion that epistemology is always already performative. Performativity, a persistent theme through Butler’s work, is the anti-ontological doing and undoing of epistemological categories, concepts, and conditions such as identity (e.g., Butler, 1990), ethics (e.g., Butler, 2005), framings (e.g., Butler, 2010). For Butler, there is no doer behind the deed or foundational essence behind epistemology, but rather, knowing and ways-of-knowing are always enactments within a citational chain. Barad (2007) extends Butler’s notion of performativity by including materiality as performative and co-constitutive of discourse.
Although, as Barad (2007) reminds us, while everything comes to matter, not everything matters and comes to matter equally.
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Higgins, M. (2021). Response-ability Revisited: Towards Re(con)figuring Scientific Literacy. In: Unsettling Responsibility in Science Education. Palgrave Studies in Educational Futures. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-61299-3_7
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