Is posthuman educable? (Penderson, 2010)

I am intrigued by the choice of words so far used to describe the humanist traditions.

In Penderson, it is the reference of “instabilities of humanist traditions/ideals of education and “institutionalised production, mediation, and development of knowledge”. (Penderson, 2010; 241)

Instability conjures for me a sense that the foundations of the humanist traditions have some cracks and are slowly breaking up.  The position that Penderson takes is that it permeates in the production, mediation and development of knowledge.  Hence, a radically new way of looking at knowledge is called for.

The dualism that is under scrutiny is the one that frames most of humanist education- the divide between human and non-human.

Interpretation of posthumanism in education varies.  Some are more sympathetic to the humanist traditions, others see this as a paradigm shift.

The former  is reflected in Stables and Scott’s (2001) vision of posthumanist environmental education curricular which to Penderson is still rooted in the humanist regimes:
“…reworking of a humanist assumptions with greater valorisation of non-human….increasingly recognising non-human life as necessary and not just as desirable and self-renewing resource (pp277-278)

The latter proposes that human, nonhuman including machines should be placed on the same continuum rather than as separate poles, one which Penderson describes as anti-speciest approaches.   Drawing on Pickering (2005)  “…mutual becoming’ of the human and the nonhuman requires a shift in the unit of analysis…where he sees posthumanism as a tool to transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries…a dialectic that produces a new kind of posthuman object, or assemblage, with a certain kind of inner unity.”

Citing Gough (2004), he  imagines teaching and learning as

“material-semiotic assemblages of sociotechnical relations embedded in and performed by shifting connections and interactions among a variety of organic, technical, ‘natural’ and textual materials.” (2004:2)
Interestingly, this has resonance with the dystopic views which also indicates that it is philosophy couched in the less positive view against commodifying (Capitalist agenda), or privileging the privileged, exclusionary politics.

So where does this leave the educator of the present and the future?  What can I draw from this as a curriculum designer, or a teacher for example? Do we need to untangle or choreograph the pedagogies from the different mix and mashed up influences and relationships with interspecies assemblages and dominant agendas?


Pedersen, H. (2010). Is the posthuman educable? On the convergence of educational philosophy, animal studies, and posthumanist theoryDiscourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, vol 31, no 2, 237-250.


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