Noticing Redemptive Practices
Shared by Lisa-Marie Gagliardi and Randa Khattar
Over the past year and a half, we have been meeting regularly as a research collective to think together about our fooding pedagogies. The children, educators and pedagogist researchers have been experimenting with ways of coming together and what it might mean to be a commons. We have also been thinking about what thinking about living well with each other might create in our material lives with others- both human and more-than-human. This thinking has led us to question the ethics of our fooding relations through embodied knowledges, the lifedeath of food, consuming materiality, pining with destruction.
Our collective pedagogical work is motivated by our pedagogical commitments outlined in our project’s collaboratively written research manifesto. These have been drafted as a way to name, in palpable ways, what our research collective is working toward pedagogically. That is not to say that these living commitments are simple or static guidelines that make our work easy; while they ground our pedagogies and the questions we walk with, they complexify and agitate the taken-for-granted practices that sprout in our daily modes of being. As we begin to notice the way we come together in our group discussions and our daily material encounters, we want to hold close several points in our manifesto:
- Noticing the dis/harmonious, ethical relations in which we are response-able to how we enact our pedagogical commitments and dispositions.
- Questioning the legitimation of dominant practices and the active erasure of other stories and worlds. We walk in questions and call ourselves in question in the name of vulnerability, compassion and gratitude.
- Cultivating a disposition of caring that calls us to resist complacency and maintenance of the status quo and to attend to the ways in which we are all active and constantly making political decisions.
- Marinating in the tensions and attending to the indigestion of how we are always already non-innocently entangled, implicated and response-able in partial, unknowable stories.
Recently, we began reading Robin Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass (https://milkweed.org/book/braiding-sweetgrass) together, whose writings work to disrupt deeply-entrenched, inherited Euro-Western logics. Kimmerer’s writing, alongside our manifesto, pull us to notice the particular ways of being (and becoming) together in our research collective.
How are we, a research collective within an urban college lab school, implicated in questions of settler-colonial living in a more-than-human world? What if, as Kimmerer writes, to “become native to this place, if we are to survive here, and our neighbors too,” we need to “learn to speak a grammar of animacy so that we might truly be home?” (p. 58). These questions, cantankerously indigestible and unresolvable, have been tugging, pulling and unsettling our thinking, creating leakages that flow unevenly to feed through the veins of the child care centre. As we experiment with ways of coming together, we find ourselves grappling with how we know what it means to come together. We struggle with the desire to arrive at solutions, in harmonious solidarity and respect, and linger over questions of what it means to be think generously in a collective:
- How might we actively disavow a politics of niceness in our thinking commons? What do politics of niceness invite, exclude and erase?
- How do we respond to the tensions that arise from staying with disharmonious disensus? How might we respond generatively to the “no”?
- How might the attempt to “get” someone else’s story actively devalorize, totalize, appropriate and assimilate another’s lived experience by cleansing it of particularities?
- How might the desire to “get it” be a redemptive practice that relies on extractive relational logic that simultaneously seeks to absolve one from the politics of that story? And, importantly: who/what is redeemed/redeemable in the process? Who is doing the redeeming?
We feel ourselves here thinking with Tuck and Yang’s (2012) understanding of Malwhinney’s (1998) moves to innocence and see redemptive practices as practices of solidarity that “problematically attempt to reconcile settler guilt and complicity” (p. 3) through “settler fantasies of easier paths to reconciliation” (p. 4). As Tuck and Yang argue,
attending to what is irreconcilable [instead] within settler colonial relations and what is incommensurable between decolonizing projects and other social justice projects will help reduce the frustration of attempts at solidarity; but the attention won’t get anyone off the hook from the hard, unsettling work of decolonization.( Tuck & Yang, 2012, p. 4).
Kimmerer also speaks of other ways of knowing in Indigenous epistemologies/logics – ways of knowing that are actively marginalized, de-legitimated and disregarded. She says, “For all of us, becoming indigenous to a place means living as if your children’s future mattered, to take care of the land as if our lives, both material and spiritual, depended on it” (Kimmerer, p. 9).
How are we then to learn a grammar of animacy, as Kimmerer suggests, while staying with the cantankerous ethics of incommensurability, and without re-reproducing and re-centring settler futurity by simplifying the complexities of worlds, including more-than-human worlds, through settler-colonial logics?
By noticing redemptive practices in our daily encounters at the centre, we are not seeking to redeem ourselves from these practices, rather to notice how narratives of redemption continue to puncture our conversations and being together in pedagogical spaces. To do this, we follow Delgado Vintimilla’s (2018) invitation to think democratic spaces, like our research collective, “as an arena where differences emerge and are confronted. Thus democratic designs are agonistic before they are consensual; they presuppose disharmony” (Vintimilla, 2018, p. 25). Paying attention and attentively noticing how redemptive logics are silently sedimented “in the unspoken shadows between us” (Vintimilla, 2018, p. 25), allows us to bring lively movement to our thinking and continually put and be put-into-question as a collective dedicated to collaborative pedagogical research. This work takes us beyond critique and complacency; to cultivate generative and generous dispositions of caring for our work and attending to how we are non-innocently entangled in settler-colonial more-than-human worlds. With these questions and intentions, we notice a very tentative and hesitant response to the idea that we are politically implicated in redemptive practices. As pedagogical researchers, we want to stay with the discomfort of this hesitation.
How do we engage in generative pedagogical dialogues as a collective that stays with the discomforts of how we are implicated in settler-colonialism, while walking with questions and “putting- and being-put-into-question” (Vintimilla, 2018, p. 25)? How do we resist the desire for redemption and solutions through settler-colonial logics? How do we notice when these settler relational logics creep into our daily practices? How might we respond differently in our relations with children? With our communities? With food? With health and safety regulations? With Indigenous knowledges? With our more-than-human world?
We end this entry thinking with Alexis Shotwell’s unforgettable words:
Thinking about politics, my problem in this book, and “our” problem in this world, is how to have simultaneously an account of radical historical contingency of the conditions under which we take ethical and political action, critical practices for accounting for our own situatedness in histories that have shaped the conditions of possibility for our actions, and a no-nonsense commitment to the kind of real, possible world Haraway describes. That world is partially shared, offers finite freedom, adequate abundance, modest meaning, and limited happiness. Partial, finite, adequate, modest, limited—and yet worth working on, with, and for.(Shotwell, 2016, p. 5).
Delgado Vintimilla, C. (2018). Encounters with a pedagogista. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood 19(1), pp. 20–30. DOI: 10.1177/1463949116684886
Kimmerer, R. (2013). Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teachings of plants. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions.
Shotwell, A. (2016). Against purity: Living ethically in compromised times. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Tuck, E. & Yang, W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1(1), pp. 1‐40. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0