NRF Posthumanism Project Seminar II 'Finding Child Beyond Child' Karin Murris
1. Finding Child beyond Child:
a critical posthumanist orientation to foundation phase
Karin Murris and Kathryn Muller
Question Mark Taken from “The Visitors Who came to Stay” Annalena McAfee/Anthony Browne
2. Guiding aims of education
Qualification: acquisition of
knowledge, skills and
Socialisation: learning to do
what/as others do
and transformation of the
Reading Biesta & Barad
3. Diffraction as object and method
Throwing two stones in a pond
creating a diffraction pattern or
‘superposition’ (Barad 2007)
Focus on difference not identity:
positive difference. Forever
becoming & beyond binaries.
Reflection: a distance from the world incl. self.
Focus on identity, and an individual ‘stepping
back’. Looking for the same/similar.
Popular metaphor in research and assessment
Anthropomorphic ontology and epistemology
Reflection misses important knowledges
Socialisation: becoming part of an existing
order and the creation of an identity through
identification with that order.
Subjectification: guided by freedom and is
about existence “outside” such orders.
Formation and transformation of students and
teachers into “subjects” coming into presence as
individuals, as independent agents actively
But not in isolation!
5. Relational ontology, an event
Hannah Arendt’s notion of action:
Each person’s ‘coming into presence’ depends
on how their beginnings are taken up by
“The way in which others take up my
beginnings are radically beyond my control”
(Biesta, 1994: 143).
So, a subject’s coming into world is always
shaped by the actions of others.
6. What is the ‘superposition’?
Biesta: a subject is an existential event, not an
identity or essence (Biesta, 2014, p.143).
Therefore, education should start “by articulating
an interest in that which announces itself as a
new beginning” (Biesta, 2014, p.143).
Barad: meaning and matter are always
ontologically entangled – against an
anthropocentric epistemology = the idea that
meaning making is a process between humans
7. ‘Relational material subjectification’
Biesta: agency is a human affair, so his subjectification
is still humanist
Barad: agency of the environment, things, materials
and places in the on-going interrelations and mutual
processes of transformation emerging in-between
human organisms and matter and in-between different
matter irrespective of human intervention (Palmer
subjectification is not only discursive, but also material
– the materiality of the human and nonhuman bodies
involved in producing the event
8. UCT PGCE FP Curriculum
• Education(al Studies) 32 7
• Childhood Studies 10 7
• Life Skills 10 7
• Special Studies 10 7
• Teaching Literacy in Multilingual contexts 10 7
• Mathematics 10 7
• School Experience 32 7
• Xhosa communication (non-credit bearing)
• Communication skills in English (non-credit bearing)
9. The Childhood Studies course
“This experientially course draws on philosophy of education to
explore key issues in childhood education. The theories we will be
looking at will be used to articulate justifications for certain educational
practices and for most of this year we will be exploring the ‘why’ of
what we do in class as teachers. Broadly speaking, the theoretical
orientation of the course is critical posthumanist, or, sometimes called
relational materialist. In the process of exploring the implications of
posthumanism for childhood education, we will be guided by three
aims of education, and touch on psychological and sociological theories
of childhood, including developmental psychology and Vygotsky. Key
questions are ‘What is knowledge?’, ‘What is learning?’ in the context
of the core question ‘What is child?. From a multidisciplinary
perspective, the course examines shifting conceptions of child and
childhood and the implications for pedagogy…….”
10. Figurations of
What child lacks by
needs to provide
Developing child Aristotle,
Ignorant child Plato, Aristotle,
Evil child Christianity esp.
Innocent child Romantics
Communal child African
norms and values
Fragile child Psycho-medical
11. Figurations of child – in short
1. Developing child – only potential, needs maturing
2. Ignorant child – needs education (‘writing on’)
3. Evil child – needs control & correction
4. Innocent child – needs protection
5. Communal child – needs socialisation, inculcation
6. Fragile child – needs protection
12. Not-fully human
The Big Baby
• passive individual child
to be measured,
• incapable, passive,
• investment for the
future, a mini adult
• a lesser being &
Posthumanism: alternative to the anthropocentric
nature of binary thinking: mind/body, child/adult,
language/matter, inner/outer, nature/culture…
A new ontoepistemology: enables a re-evaluation of
child as (e)mergent competent thinker and meaning
maker through material-discursive relationships.
How? By removing language as the main hub of
knowledge production and with it the ‘fully-human’
sophisticated language speaker of age as the sole
knowing subject & different view of time
15. Subject as iii
• rethinking of ‘human’ through
‘child’: multiple, not singular
Body not a bounded object
in space and time
Not a container of e.g.
emotions/thoughts, but a force,
Field matter is not passive, but dynamic and has agency - not
something or someone has, but an enactment
Neologism for ‘bodymindmatter’: iii – relational ontology
- a proposal to help bring about a different way of being, doing
- “might chafe at first, just like a new pair of shoes”
16. Child as iii – a matter of ontoepistemic
Living without bodily ‘borders’ or ‘boundaries’ ‘the’ ‘iii’ as quantum
entanglement is not a ‘new’ unity, but it is like ‘a’ sea that as a ‘unit’
troubles the very nature of one-ness, two-ness, three-ness…the
use of the pronoun should provoke “a different sense of a-count-
ability, a different arithmetic, a different calculus of response-
ability” (Barad, 2014, p.178).
Relations are always material-discursive and constitute the
individual - not the other way round.
Not just a matter of semantics, but a matter of ethics and politics.
How can we do justice to child by using an ontology that assumes
that there are “no individual independently existing entities or
agents that pre-exist their acting upon one another”?
17. Entangled material-discursive
engagements of students’ bodyminds
Focus on the self & rational choices (collection of competencies
and skills), or
Focus on how power operates (incl emotions) on this reflexive
process and knowledge production
“a method of diffractively reading insights through one another,
building new insights, and attentively and carefully reading for
differences that matter in their fine details, together with the
recognition that intrinsic to this analysis is an ethics that is not
predicated on externality but rather entanglement. Diffractive
readings bring inventive provocations; they are good to think
with. They are respectful, detailed, ethical engagements”.
19. Being with and as part of the
Aims: further disruption necessary, in particular of
1. Nature/Culture dichotomy &
2. Therefore the particular teacher/child pedagogical
3. Logic of representation &
4. Language (incl maths) as the only means of
Interventions: e.g. new reading pack, workshops with
Kristy Stone, Kitamura’s picturebook Once upon an
23. New reading pack & workshops
Erica Burman. Beyond the Baby and the Bathwater
Ramaekers and Suissa. What all parents need to know: exploring the hidden
normativity of the language of developmental psychology.
Palmary and Mahati. Using deconstructing developmental psychology to read
child migrants to South Africa.
Taylor and Blaise. Queer-worlding childhood.
Olsson. Movement and experimentation in young children’s learning.
Taylor and Richardson. Queering Home Corner.
1. P4C workshop
2. Being in touch with materials
3. Hands activity
4. Clay objects intra-acting
32. Assessment of the Childhood
Final exhibition that includes a material record
of their own shifting views of child(hood):
1. Diffractive journal with augmented realities
2. Model construction of an ideal classroom
3. Art installation (e.g a construction, series of
photographs, collage, Dvd)
Registering of the differences that matter,
being accountable & response-able for the
new and a mapping of how childism is
33. Not ‘object-orientated-ontology’
What does it mean to be an object? To be an animal?
Matter (modernity): ‘simply located’, without relations, inert,
passive mechanically following Newtonian laws.
Disrupted by physics (not only quantum physics)
Whitehead ‘bifurcation of nature: humans distancing
themselves from nature: anthropocentric. Problem with the
very concept of ‘nature’.
OOO: agency to matter, but without the Subject (so humanist)
Posthuman: matter, subject, instrument that measures always
entangled in a material discursive environment
35. The nature of nature
Stengers: Nature is not inert - it is what we are aware
of in perception if we ‘pay full attention’
Not only humans create knowledge with a knowing
subject whose eyes represent the world, while
escaping him or her self from representation
Teaching is always an entangled relationship
involving all earth dwellers: females, slaves, children,
animals, brittle stars and matter – the not ‘fully-
humans’ of humanism (Murris, 2016)