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Dark Pedagogy

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New “materialism” and “realisms” of various sorts seems to be all the rage these days (Cates, Bruner, & Moss, 2018; Kraftl, 2018; Levi Bryant, 2011; Morton, 2011). The field of environmental and sustainability education (ESE) research is arguably a good place to invite new theoretical and practical concepts inside in order to further develop new perspectives on, and potentials, within our field (Jickling & Sterling, 2017; Poeck & Lysgaard, 2016). Pitfalls abound, of course. Stephen Sterling is quoted in arguing that the core concepts of ESE are “debilitated by a lack of philosophical clarity (Jickling & Sterling, 2017). In this article we draw on the emerging speculative realist philosophical movement, and object-oriented ontology (OOO) in particular, in order to develop our understanding of environmental and sustainability issues that need framing and reframing within ESE research and how we can deal with the complexity of these issues at hand (Harman, 2009; Morton, 2013). This asks of us as ESE researchers to, both, develop the philosophical fundament of the field of ESE research but also to push research and practice through insights gained through contemporary and emerging philosophical possibilities. Our use of the term ‘dark pedagogy’ is inspired by current philosophical perspectives on nature, realism and materiality, but also by the an interest in the classic horror author H.P. Lovecraft (Harman, 2012; Morton, 2016; Thacker, 2011). His universe consists of a fragile human world constantly threatened and rearranged by uncanny powers that lie beyond the direct control of human powers, but always interfere, change and distort the world they inhabit. H.P. Lovecraft and his ‘tales of the horrible’ emphasize how the great challenges to humanity always eludes petty human attempts to put them into words and control them. Hence, our conception of dark pedagogy attempts to unsettle and de-center the autonomous and mature subject of education, at has been framed by Enlightenment thought and still influences contemporary conceptions of education. This perspective and the writing of H.P. Lovecraft is being linked by several philosophers within the before mentioned speculative realist movement to analyses of issues such as environmental degradation, global warming, pollution, etc. (Harman, 2012; Thacker, 2011). While these new perspectives are proving inspirational and influential in contemporary philosophy, these new perspectives have only seen initial efforts to translate them into education and environmental education (Oral, 2015; Wallin, 2014). These efforts have primarily been framed and limited to the scope of the fields or points of departure that the scholars have been trying to address, for example by a scope that focuses on the philosophical implications (Oral 2015) or post-humanist perspectives (Wallin 2014). Our take on developing a dark pedagogy by drawing on speculative realism orients itself towards the German Bildung-tradition and German Didaktik. As a result we are primarily concerned with the implications of the content of education for the project of education or rather Bildung. Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources Used This paper is a theoretical effort to draw on current developments within continental philosophy to philosophically interrogate and develop our understanding the issues within ESE that, as we will show, will always remain hard to grasp and, as we will argue, in the dark. The ambition is not to dismiss or critique any current or past work within the field of ESE, but to interrogate, substantiate and, thereby, to open up for discussions central concepts to the field. Given its relative content of education and issues concerned, we understand the ESE field as an obvious potential bridgehead of new philosophically informed perspectives on materialism and realism, as ESE is one of the many educational fields that deals with these issues most explicitly. In order to develop the notion of dark pedagogy and the potential for ESE practice and research we start with accounting for some of the key philosophical underpinnings of speculative realism and OOO, before bringing into play the concepts of hyperobjects, under-, over-, duomining and the strange stranger in order to illustrate what a return to realism might offer for environmental and sustainability education.
Original languageEnglish
Publication yearSep 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019
EventECER 2019, Hamburg: Education in an Era of Risk – the Role of Educational Research for the Future - Germany, Hamburg, Germany
Duration: 3 Sep 20196 Sep 2019


ConferenceECER 2019, Hamburg
Internet address

    Research areas

  • Pædagogisk filosofi, Agential Realism-New Materialism

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