Awakening in/to School, Self, Society and Animate Earth: An Autoethnographic Métissage of One Woman’s Journey with/in Liminal Space

Wilkie, Aline Mary
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Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, University of Regina

This dissertation is the journey of one woman with and in liminal space as I awaken to the discourses of Modern Western School, society and self in order to understand the possibilities for changing educational provision. For most of my lifetime I had being trying to transform the existing system of education, motivated by the environmental devastation and social upheaval of our times and the impact these conditions have upon the lives of children. Being very influenced by liberal ideals of activism and the discourses of environmental education and critical theory, this dissertation began as an action research process, where I attempted, not for the first time, to engage a school staff and community in re-thinking and re-imaging how school could be done. While I encountered the familiar experiences of synchronicity, new possibilities and hope that often exist in such action processes, it was not long before such limit work once again bumped up, painfully, against the worldviews and sacred stores of Western school, society, and the internal discourses of the self, I encountering the familiar disciplining and normalizing forces of these institutions, the culture, and my own psyche. Having cycled through this familiar territory more than once, it became clear to me that I was the nexus upon which this research process turned, so i made a conscious decision to step back from it all, school, society, and even self, and examine the stories. Using lenses that I had resisted throughout the first years of this dissertation, poststructural, postcritical, postcolonial, and feminist, I examined my experiences and turned a critically reflective lens upon the discourses of Modern Western culture and the institution of education while at the same time turning the mirror upon my self. Metissage, which has its roots in the Latin word mixtus, became the guiding metaphor of the research process. Along with mixing multiple theoretical perspectives, this research also braids multiple methodological stances. Biographical, narrative writing blended with ethnography, as discursive constitutions of self were examined and deconstructed within the contexts and discourses of Modern Western culture and school, creating a complex autoethnographic braiding of the personal with the socio/cultural. This metissage life writing also included the fragile and difficult braiding of discursive and non-discursive "speech" into a "text" which could be written and read differently, privileging both the written word and image. Arts-informed research gave a language to the tacit, embodied, intuitive, spiritual experiences for which I could find no "words," with collage, artwork and mixed media functioning as legitimate kinds of texts that could "speak" these experiences and ways of knowing into being. All such autoethnographic memory work is fictional, but is is such fictions which provide the substance of lived reality. Some may see such work as navel gazing and/or narcissistic, however it is within the stories we tell ourselves and the stories that are told to us and about us that our agency, our capacity for resistance, and our freedom exist. Such reflective work supports us in reconceptualising author-ity, allowing us to become the authors of our own stories. We can re-read the images and metaphors of old storylines, re-story dominant discourses, re-write possible futures and write ourselves otherwise. Through this reflective journey I re(dis)covered my voice and dared to speak aloud experiences often silent and silences in Modern Western culture and its institutions. This intimate, inner journey tells of experiences of awe and wonder, pain and struggle, failure and doubt, compassion and awakening. In sharing this inner world with my readers, I hope that this metissage of story, image and reflection creates possibilities for connections to familiar tales, disruptions of "common sense" fictions, and awakenings into new writings of self, school and society for the benefit and healing of our children and our animate Earth.

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education, University of Regina. vi, 222 p.