Occasional Paper Series #45

Decolonial Water Pedagogies: Invitations to Black, Indigenous, and Black-Indigenous World-Making

by Fikile Nxumalo

In this article, I share small stories of young people’s pedagogical encounters with water. I share these stories as illustrations of pedagogies that welcome young people into caring relationships with more-than-human life. So, why do the ways in which young people are welcomed into relationship with the more-than-human matter? In my work, I spend a lot of time with young people and educators in everyday place-based encounters. An important orientation of this work, both pedagogically and conceptually, is trying to figure out what it might look like to learn with place, and its more-than-human inhabitants, in ways that disrupt settler colonial and anti-Black inheritances. These inheritances include Euro-Western human exceptionalism, which manifests in myriad ways in place-based education, including as a normalized understanding of the natural world as intrinsically separate from, and lesser than, humans (Bang et al., 2014; Nxumalo, 2019). This separation shows up, for instance, when nature is described in ways that construct it primarily as a mute site for young learners’ meaning-making and their universalized cognitive, physical, and socio-emotional developmental progression (Nxumalo, 2019; Taylor, 2017). This is not to suggest that there are not important benefits that derive from pedagogical encounters with the natural world. However, my concern here is with two interconnected key issues that arise from the dominant focus on developmental outcomes.

About the Author

Fikile Nxumalo is an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching & Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Her work is centered on environmental and place-attuned early childhood education that is situated within and responsive to children’s inheritances of settler colonialism, anti-Blackness, and environmental precarity. Her book, Decolonizing Place in Early Childhood Education (Routledge, 2019), examines the entanglements of place, environmental education, childhood, race, and settler colonialism in early learning contexts on unceded Coast Salish territories.

Fikile Nxumalo

“What Stories, Like Water, Hold: A Response to Fikile Nxumalo”

by Debbie Sonu

The stories we tell carry our beliefs, our histories, and our relationships. They orient us toward particular ways of living and being, both with each other and with the natural world, and guide us into our sense of self and our encounters with difference. They describe what is made alive and what is rendered in service. In her book Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013), botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, welcomes us into the story of Skywoman, wh falls downward on a stream of light and looks into the dark waters below to see not emptiness, but the glimmers of many eyes gazing up at her.

Read Full Response Essay (pdf)

Debbie Sonu