Post-Humanism and Social Science Education
The Journal of Social Science Education will publish a Theme Issue on Post-Humanism in social science education (JSSE 1-2025). Editors of this issue are Werner Friedrichs, Inken Heldt, Noora Pyyry and Jan Löfström. In this Call for Papers, we warmly invite readers to contribute to the issue!
The world is at a tipping point. The much-discussed Anthropocene (or ‘Chthulucene’; Haraway, 2015) points to a ‘quake in being’ (Morton, 2013). Whether or not one accepts the concept as a factual description of a new geological era, there is very little disagreement about the significant impact on the planet’s ecosystems that humans, or specific human-made systems, are responsible for: climate change, global warming, alterations to the Earth’s carbon and nitrogen cycles, ocean acidification, and catastrophic biodiversity loss (Crutzen & Stormer, 2000; Latour et al., 2018). Such trends can no longer be described as a crisis only but could be understood as a ‘bifurcation’ (Bonneil & Fressoz, 2017): a call to dislodge and critically re-think the premises of the modern (Western) human subjectivity. A re-orientation is needed in thinking of what it means to be human: a post-human de-centering of the autonomous knowing subject (Braidotti, 2019). Further, this entails a need to also critically examine what learning is and how it is realised in different situations, in the spirit of resisting the instrumentalization and economization of education.
Human-centered individualism is generally taken as the starting point when learning and education is talked about. But who exactly is the one that learns? And how is this learner connected to the world that the learner is learning about? Where is the learner located? These questions have surfaced together with post-human thinking that is linked to the time of the Anthropocene (Lorimer, 2017; Malone et al., 2020). In this frame, the thinking human subject is placed within the networks or rhizomes of knowledge creation, rather than treating the subject as a separate being: learning about becomes learning with (Postma, 2020; Pyyry, 2017). This does not mean that post-humanism puts forward some sort of anti-humanism: the subject is not to be deleted but re-configured. It can no longer be conceptualized as autonomous, coherent or stable, but as an ongoing result of material and social practices.
Paulo Freire (1968/2011) advocated critical pedagogy that would make people aware of the injustices of the world. At the time of the Anthropocene this advocacy of justice needs to include the world of the non-humans, too (Rautio, 2017). Education needs to reach beyond the human in its perspectives. Hence, critical post-humanist education approaches the learning subject as always entangled with the world, never outside of it. The human subject arises from world-building relations that include the more-than-human lives (Thrift, 2008). This frame has far-reaching implications for social science education. The processes of learning – and the connected project of Bildung, cultivation of democratic subjects – can no longer be thought humanistically, learning about society or politics ‘inwardly’ (mentally). Mental concepts are not idealistic forms, positioned inwardly in the human brain but always embodied and situated in the world (Newen et al., 2018: embodied cognition). This poses challenges to education that rests so heavily on the idea of representation. When representations are treated as evidence, be it an election poll or an assesment grade, the world itself is kept at a distance, as if we could draw information from it without touching or affecting its course.
For the Theme Issue, we welcome contributions that address the question of post-humanism in relation to social science education. We would like to emphasize that the papers need to have a connection to questions of social science/social studies teaching and learning. The paper can be theoretical, conceptual or empirical in its approach. We encourage authors to send us an inquiry (with a preliminary abstract) if in doubt about how their topic fits the scope of the Theme Issue. The list below suggests some points of interest but is not exhaustive of potential topics:
- How can the materiality of the world and the non-human be included in the processes of Bildung (of becoming a democratic subject)? In other words: How to better appreciate ‘the speaking back of the non-human world’ in education?
- How to conceptualize learning in a more-than-human frame (see Taylor et al, 2013)? What would a ‘Planetary Bildung’ look like?
- In an intertwined world, autonomy and self-reliance are no longer necessarily goals of civic education. It is rather a matter of making the more-than-human involvement with the world palpable in educational practices. How is this new direction read politically, and not only as a matter of connection with the world (see Lemke, 2021)?
- How to conceptualize agency in post-human social science education (see Crowley 2022)?
- What do digital learning environments do from a post-human perspective? We hope for critical and insightful analysis of contemporary digital education beyond the schemata of using/not using digital devices.
- How to approach methods and data when discussing the processes of Bildung in a post-human frame (e.g., St. Pierre, 2019; Taylor, 2017)?
- What methods are appropriate to make the post-humanist processes of Bildung explicit in education (e.g., mapping, sensing, hacking; see Chandler, 2018)?
- How to approach representation, for example in student assessment (e.g. grades, PISA), in a post-human frame, which points to a moving, networked world?
This issue is edited by:
The time schedule of the Special Issue is following:
Abstracts from the authors by 15.11.2023
Note: it is not obligatory to send an abstract but it may help us find the reviewers for the paper more swiftly.
First submission of texts by authors by 01.07.2024
Final submission of texts by authors 01.12.2024
Final versions ready for layout 15.01.2025
Publication of the issue 15.03.2025
Papers that have successfully passed peer review will be published as Advance Access when the final version is available.
Bonneuil, C. & Fressoz, J.-B. (2017). The Shock of the Anthropocene. The Earth, History and Us. London: Verso.
Braidotti, R. (2019). Posthuman Knowledge. London: Polity Press.
Chandler, D. (2018). Ontopolitics in the Anthropocene. An Introduction to Mapping, Sensing and Hacking. New York: Routledge.
Crowley, M. (2022): Accidental Agents. New York: Columbia University Press.
Crutzen, P. J., & Stormer, E. F. (2000). The Anthropocene. Global Change Newsletter, 41, 17–18.
Freire, P. (1968/2011). Pedagogy of the oppressed. (Original work Pedagogía del oprimido published in 1968.) Translation: Bergman Ramos. New York: M. Continuum International.
Haraway, D. (2015). Anthropocene, capitalocene, plantationocene, chthulucene: Making kin. Environmental Humanities, 6(1), 159–165.
Latour, B., Stengers, I., Tsing, A., & Bubandt, N. (2018). Anthropologists are talking–about capitalism, ecology, and apocalypse. Ethnos 83 (3), 587–606.
Lemke, T. (2021). The Government of Things: Foucault and the New Materialisms. New York: New York University Press.
Lorimer, J. (2017). The Anthropo-scene: A guide for the perplexed. Social Studies of Science, 47(1), 117-142.
Malone, K., Tesar, M., & Arndt, S. (2020). Theorising posthuman childhood studies. Cham: Springer.
Manning, E. (2016). For a pragmatics of the useless, or the value of the infrathin. Political Theory, 45(1), 97–115.
Manning, E. & Massumi, B. (2014). Thought in the act: Passages in the ecology of experience.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Morton, T. (2013). Hyperobjects. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Newen, A., De Bruin, L., & Gallagher, S. (ed.) (2018). The Oxford Handbook of 4E Cognition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Postma, D. (2020). Critical Posthumanism in Education. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190264093.013.1409
Pyyry, N. (2017). Thinking with broken glass: creating pedagogical spaces of enchantment in the city. Environmental Education Research, 23(10), 1391–1401.
Rautio, P. (2017). “A Super Wild Story”: Shared Human–Pigeon Lives and the Questions They Beg. Qualitative Inquiry, 23(9), 722–731.
St. Pierre, E. A. (2019). Post qualitative inquiry in an ontology of immanence. Qualitative Inquiry, 25(1), 3–16.
Taylor, C. A. 2017. Is a posthumanist Bildung possible? Reclaiming the promise of Bildung for contemporary higher education. Higher Education, 74, 419–435.
Taylor, A., Blaise, M., & Giugni, M. (2013). Haraway's ‘bag lady story-telling’: Relocating childhood and learning within a ‘post-human landscape’. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 34(1), 48–62.
Thrift, N. (2008). I just don't know what got into me: Where is the subject? Subjectivity: International Journal of Critical Psychology, 22(1), 82–89.