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74th Annual Meeting 2018

The 74th Annual Meeting of the Philosophy of Education Society (PES) will take place from March 22-26, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois, at the Palmer House Hilton:

The Program Committee invites papers to be submitted for presentation at the Annual Meeting and for subsequent publication in the PES yearbook, Philosophy of Education 2018.  The Committee also invites proposals for: (1) alternative sessions; and (2) work-in-progress sessions designed to bring participants together to collaborate on developing ideas not yet ready for the regular paper submission process.  Papers and proposals that address the conference theme are specifically encouraged, but all submissions will be considered on an equal basis.

PES 2018 THEME: Education as Formation

In J.M Coetzee’s recent novel, The Schooldays of Jesus, a seven-year old child, Davíd, is delighted to discover upon his return to the Academy of Dance that the school’s pet lamb, Jeremiah, has “grown small” (Coetzee, 2016, p. 238).  David’s parental-figure, Simón, explains what has really happened:

No one in this world grows small, Davíd.   If he has turned small, it is not because Aloysha hasn’t been feeding him, it is because he is not the real Jeremiah.  He is a new Jeremiah who has taken the place of the old Jeremiah because the old Jeremiah has grown up and turned into a sheep.  People find young Jeremiahs endearing, but not old Jeremiahs.  No one wants to cuddle old Jeremiahs.  That is their misfortune (Coetzee, 2016, p. 238).

Here, Simón sums up the fate of all animals: as we age we grow and our growth makes us less adorable and charming.  In the case of human beings, however, aging and growth are accompanied by maturation and wisdom.  With the passage of time comes experience, perspective and, ideally, wisdom.  Life effectively teaches us how to live.  Thus, humans desire to grow up because maturity and wisdom are marks of improved judgment, autonomous self-determination, and the full realization of our humanity.

It is tempting to subordinate youth to maturity, that is, to conceive of the present as a mere preparation for the future.  Yet, as John Dewey demonstrates, the only adequate preparation for the future is to live fully in the present.  Generally speaking, children live in the present more than adults do.  Such an appreciation of childhood, however, can tempt us to devalue maturity: youth is associated with vitality, naiveté and idealism, whereas maturity is associated with lethargy, resignation, and cynicism.  Ultimately, the relation between youth and maturity is more complex; youth and maturity co-exist in the lives of all evolving individuals.  Most of our experiences must be lived before we can understand them.  Given that we can only know retrospectively how current experiences will live on in future ones, we can only discover who we truly are by reflecting on, and seeking to recognize ourselves in, our youthful searching.   We are formed by experiences, and we give form to ourselves through memory, understanding and narrative.

Although the social sciences dominate our understanding of human maturation, philosophy has much to contribute.  For example, philosophers question developmental models proposed by psychologists; they illuminate the problematic process of having to make significant life choices on behalf of one’s future, transformed, self; they ask how it is possible to educate for a more equitable and just society when the educators and educational institutions themselves are a part of the very society that they seek to reform; and they propose their own visions of formation.  Moreover, a philosophical examination of the conceptual link between formation and education has compelling implications for our understanding of and engagement in parenting, teaching, coaching, mentoring, and care-giving.  Accordingly, the Program Committee calls for papers and alternative session proposals for the 2018 PES annual conference that address all aspects of the theme of education as formation.  These include, but are not limited to:

  • Moral perfectionism

  • Formative justice

  • Bildung, Bildungsroman, and  the “coming of age” film

  • Existential, progressive and/or liberal education

  • Democracy and citizenship education

  • Critical theory and critical pedagogies

  • Potentiality, character, growing up, maturity, cultivation, transformation, and/or upbringing

  • Metaphors for human formation such as growing up, circles, narrative, and/or journey

  • Repetition, routine, regimentation, ritual, habit, practice, and training

  • Philosophical biography and/or autobiography

  • Philosophy of/as the art of living

  • Philosophies of childhood, aging, parenting, and/or intergenerational relationships

  • Philosophies founded upon concepts of natality, fate, and/or mortality

  • Psychoanalytic concepts of remembering, regression, irony, mourning, and melancholia

Submissions do not have to address the theme explicitly.  We also encourage submissions that attend to gaps within the field, and/or propose novel ways of thinking about perennial educational concerns.  All papers will go through a formal review process overseen by the program committee.  Papers may be deemed unacceptable on grounds of quality, but they will not be automatically excluded because they do not address the conference theme.


The Program Committee will review only submissions made in accordance with the instructions below. Papers reviewed and accepted by the Program Committee, and invited responses to them, will be published online in the society’s annual yearbook, Philosophy of Education 2018. Past issues can be viewed here:

Program Committee members: Kal Alston, Jason C. Blokhuis, Bob Davis, Kevin Gary, Tal Gilead, David T. Hansen, Chris Higgins, Mark Jonas, Duck-Joo Kwak, Natasha Levinson, Stephanie Mackler, Jennifer Morton, Naoko Saito, Paul Standish, Susan Verducci, David Waddington, Rachel Wahl, Quentin Wheeler-Bell and Douglas Yacek. (Thanks in advance to these colleagues for their service to the Society.) Graduate Assistant: Sara Hardman, Teachers College, Columbia University.

Deadline: Papers and proposals must be submitted electronically to no later than November 1, 2017.

Submission instructions appear below:

Submission Formats

Paper Submissions: Papers may not exceed 4,500 words, including footnotes, and must be written in proper PES form (see the  Style Guide). The 4,500-word limit will be strictly enforced. Papers that modestly exceed the 4,500-word limit will be subject to editing. Papers that exceed this limit excessively will be subject to rejection without review or to not being published in the PES yearbook.

Multiple reviewers will review papers blindly. Final decisions on manuscripts rest with the Program Chair. Criteria for review include quality of argument, links to philosophical and philosophy of education literature and to education policy and practice, quality of expression, and significance of the contribution. Please make sure that references to your name, institutional affiliation, or work (e.g., “As I have argued on many occasions…”) are omitted from the paper, including the notes. Your identifying information will not be available to reviewers.

Alternative Presentation Submissions: Proposals may not exceed 1,000 words, including references. If the session being proposed involves multiple presenters, please specify the contribution of each presenter.

Alternative presentation proposals take two general forms:

Alternative Sessions: Examples include roundtables, author meets critics panels, performances, interviews, and panel conversations on issues. Criteria for review include originality and clarity of motivating question or idea, potential interaction with session attendees, and relevance/ importance to educational philosophy and educational policy and practice. Alternative sessions may be scheduled concurrently with paper sessions or in separate time slots.

Work-in-Progress Sessions: These sessions will group scholars with work-in-progress in an informal collaborative setting. Proposals should detail the question or claim being investigated, relevant sources/ resources, likely direction, and mode(s) of analysis. Criteria for review include clarity and significance of the question/ claim, suitability of sources/ resources, suitability of mode(s) of analysis, and potential for thinking anew about issues in the field of educational philosophy.

Submission Process: Submit papers or proposals as a Word attachment to  by November 1, 2017. In the body of your e-mail, please provide the following contact information:

  • Name
  • Institutional Affiliation
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Mailing address

Submissions will be accepted beginning September 15, 2017. An e-mail confirmation that your submission has been received will be sent within two business days.

Note: If you do not receive an email confirmation within two business days of your submission, please contact Megan Laverty

Respondents and Chairs

Members of PES who are interested in serving as session chairs or respondents are invited to contact the Program Chair, Megan Laverty,  Please specify your areas of expertise and provide your full contact information (mailing address, email address, and phone number). For questions concerning the program, please contact Megan Laverty at We look forward to receiving your submissions.

A note on A/V:

Due to prohibitive costs, PES is unable to provide data projectors, extension cords, or other A/V equipment. Presenters wishing to make use of PowerPoint or other presentation software must make their own arrangements at their own expense.

Presented at the PES Pre-Conference on Indigenous topics, March 2017


Is the expression “wisdom philosophy” a tautology, or a contradiction of no consequence? This author subscribes to the view that philosophical practice is, at its core, a quest for wisdom.[1] It is, therefore, not a question of whether but of how it can be made clear to chronically opposed social justice theorists and activists that philosophy has a material say in social change, including concerning the multiply scarred Indigenous/non-Indigenous relationship, which along with law professor Kathleen Mahoney (2015), i’ll insist, is not only historically but currently foundational to Canada.

By arguing for 1) metatheoretical “re-indigenization”[2], e.g. of wisdom as positioned at the heart of philosophical practice, and 2) substantive theoretical “Indigenization”, e.g. of philosophy along ecosocial thinking lines, i present an argument for the very real possibility of long-awaited, mutually sustaining (rather than assimilative) convergences of thought and life for Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, and by extension, for philosophy’s continued relevance,[3] including for education, Indigenous and mainstream alike.

I invite Onondaga scholar David Newhouse’s definition of true knowledge as “what helps us to live together well” to step up to a definition of wisdom. For isn’t the latter, rather than traditional epistemological truth or scientific (hence “true”) knowledge, to be attained to, habituated, and relied on if a community is to improve their shared life? I further analyze Nuu-chah-nulth[4] scholar Richard Atleo’s (2005, 2011) tsawalk-principles as ecosocial wisdom that has served his nation well for millennia, and can likewise serve Canadians and humanity as a whole now and in the future. Let us briefly compare the above with European-descended philosophers of environmental orientation.

I side with Jim Lang (2010), who employs Lorraine Code’s (2006) ecological thinking (ET) in his PES 2009 talk to identify educational contexts as, in effect, dynamic social-material ecosystems. Even if quite possibly unbeknownst to or at least unacknowledged (in explicit publications) by these two authors, there exist demonstrable ET resonances with Indigenous philosophies on this continent and elsewhere.[5] Significantly, this allows to “marry”[6] ecologically-minded Western-derived and Indigenous-situated worldviews for an  ecosocially-wise (educational) philosophy.

The understanding that wisdom-searching is indigenous to the philosophical enterprise effects a decisive departure from the “nature-mirroring” detours of Western thought, so aptly deconstructed for their self-serving representationalism by Rorty (1979), a.o., and from the exclusive/exclusionary rationalistic leanings going back to Plato, and never fully transcended, even if resolutely dethroned by a number of revisionist thinkers (see Code, 2006), including Rorty himself, an analytic philosopher by training. The proposed metatheoretical indigenization of wisdom makes like-minded contact with Indigenous wisdom, which some have argued is philosophy proper in an Indigenous paradigm (Cajete, 1994, a.o.); further, the direct practical implementation of said indigenization would correspond with the often noted Indigenous worldview of theory-practice, spirit-mind-body, culture-nature continuity.

As to the substantive theoretical side, the increasingly influential environmental orientation of first-world Canada can be seen as “re-indigenization” by way of earning proper belonging to the land that sustains us, thus by way of touching one’s pre-industrial roots. Then again, it can be seen as “Indigenization” by finding a common language with Indigenous worldviews and peoples, and giving their practice-proven scientific-philosophical insights dignity and worth commensurable with the Euro-American counterparts. Such developments, i propose, are well positioned to effect actual decolonization of thought, and to the extent that the theory-practice link is operationalizable, they can duplicate the recognized be-think-do Indigenous nexus (Atleo, 2005, 2011; Cajete, 1994, a.o.), whereby a professed philosophy is by (Indigenous-paradigm) definition a philosophy as a way of life.

To conclude, the leadership of the re-visioned kind of philosophy in regenerating social interactions would likely quite appropriately suspend Rortyan objections to the role of Kantian philosophy-as-epistemology (per Rorty’s gloss) as the ultimate censor of all scholarship and all of society. It would be organically complemented, and periodically updated, by social justice practice as tactics for the trenches while providing itself an overarching public strategy. If Indigenous/non-Indigenous convergences are realized in thought and life, as projected above, then it would be possible to re-construct in the present time the RCAP-identified “stage of cooperation” (RCAP, 1996) from the time of the fur trade (and earlier), when both local and cross-Atlantic Indigeneities could engage in trade, war and marriage equally fluently and naturally. We can proceed by actualizing a shared respect for the ecosystems that sustain us.



Alfred, Taiaiake (2005) Wasáse: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, Higher Education Division.

Arcilla, René Vincente (2002) Why Aren’t Philosophers and Educators Speaking to Each Other? Educational Theory 52(1), pp.1-11.

Atleo, Umeek E. Richard (2005) Tsawalk: A Nuu-chah-nulth Worldview. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

—————- (2011) Principles of Tsawalk: An Indigenous Approach to Global Crisis. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

Cajete, Gregory (1994) Look to the Mountain: An Ecology of indigenous Education. Kivaki Press.

Deleuze, Gilles & Félix Guattari ([1991]) What Is Philosophy? Transl. from French by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell III. Revised edition. Columbia University Press. Originally published as Qu’est-ce que la philosophie? in 1991 by Les éditions de Minuit, Paris; in English in 1994 by Columbia University Press.

Fricker, Miranda (2007) Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Government of Canada (1996) Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Volume I: Looking Forward, Looking Back.

Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (2006) (May 8, 2006).

Lang, James C. (2010) Educational Epistemic Ecosystems: Re-visioning Educational Contexts on Lorraine Code’s Ecological Thinking. In Philosophy of Education 2010, pp. 180-189. Edited by Gert Biesta. pes/article/view/3085/1144

Mahoney, Kathleen (2015) “Canada’s Origin Story”. Royal Society of Canada keynote, Victoria, B.C., November 27, 2015.

Rorty, Richard (1979) Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. NJ: Princeton University Press.

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996) Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples Vols I-V. Canada.

Smith. Linda Tuhiwai (2012) Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. Zed Books.

Stengel, B. S. (2002). Cause for Worry or Agenda for Action? Educational Theory, 52(3), 281–290.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015a) Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Winnipeg, Manitoba: TRC.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015b) Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action. Winnipeg, Manitoba: TRC.

Van Kirk, Sylvia (1980) Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society, 1670-1870. Watson & Dwyer.



[1] But cf. Deleuze & Guattari, What Is Philosophy? for an alternative, though not strictly opposed view.

[2] Lower-case indigenous is taken to mean “belonging to a place”, whereas capitalized Indigenous refers to who/what is currently/formerly colonized.

[3] Thereby augmenting the fecund possibilities that Barbara Stengel shared in her response to Rene Arcilla’s (2002) famous flagging of the alleged breakdown of the philosopher/educator conversation.

[4] a.k.a. Nootka, which is a preferably avoided label.

[5] In addition to Richard Atleo’s (2005, 2011) Nuu-chah-nulth worldview, see Linda Tuhiwai Smith (2012) for the New Zealand Indigenous context. The similarly “environmental” worldview of the Bushmen of Southern Africa, a.k.a. the San people, Basarwa, is articulately cinematographically portrayed in The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980).

[6] See historian Sylvia van Kirk’s Many Tender Ties re the family histories of the fur trade in the Great Lakes region.

Presented at CCA/ACC annual Conference, at Congress 2017, Ryerson U, Toronto, June 30, 2017.


To bring the philosophical enterprise back to its love-of-wisdom etymological roots is to stake the claim that the search for wisdom is the philosophically minded scholar’s most fundamental imperative-prerogative and positionality. This means a paradigmatic turn in philosophy, among whose increasingly influential tributaries are: environmentalism (R.Carson, 1962; L.Code, 2006), also underscored by “de-growth/post-growth” theorizations (G.d’Alisa et al., eds., 2015); various other social/global justice-oriented streams; and relational thinking broadly defined (W.Heisenberg, 1973; N.Noddings in C.Bingham & A.Sidorkin, 2004/10).

Importantly, re-etymologized philosophy is much more conversant with beliefs and practices that are impressively similar among, e.g., Indigenous peoples of the Americas (R.Atleo, 2005 & 2011; G.Cajete, 1994; Leroy Little Bear, 2000), New Zealand’s Maori (L.T.Smith, 2002), African sages (H.O.Oruka, 1991) and Bushmen (The Gods Must Be Crazy, 1980). Since it is the pair of “wisdom” and “culture”, a.o., that have come to translate “lesser” worlds to superior “civilization” boasting “philosophy”/“science”, the proposed re-etymologization also means (boldly explicating D.Vokey, 2001), re-visioning philosophy as a genre of intellectual insight that forms a continuum across firstfourth worlds, thereby legitimating existing differences as properly paradigmatic. Indeed, the above-mentioned Western and Indigenous epistemic flows converge on a core wisdom message, both sides increasingly recognizing shared similarities (Leroy Little Bear, 2000,2016; Pratt, 2002; Peat, 2005). Such decolonization/(re-)Indigenization of the mind/spirit is expected to be feeding into/off of bodily  decolonization, i.e., on the physical plane, through intersecting material, economic, geographical parameters – all these factors likely steered by Batesonian cyclical causality, rather than the hitherto mainstream-predominant one-way counterpart.

A number of pre-contact societies, relying on their own philosophy-theology-science (quotation marks-reprieved, like Indigenous science – P.Colorado 1988; G.Cajete 2000, a.o.), were fully sustainable and epidemic-free (D.Peat 2005, a.o.). I submit that this historical record, contrasted with the developed world’s progress-/success-compromised one, necessitates academia’s Wisdom Re-Turn, as an overarching culmination in a series of “turns” – affective, relational, etc. Remembering dissenting/wise voices, it is not philosophy in toto (just like science/technology) that is to blame for rationalistic exclusivity and wasteful superiority, and more concretely, for environmental decimation, political-economic hegemony, oppressive patriarchy, or colonialism with its accompanying racism/exploitation. Accountability lies with any digression from the self-explanatory etymological designation by its purveyors, or indeed, retailers.

Ultimately, if the developed world’s professionally disciplined philosophy were to retrace its historical-linguistic trajectory back to wisdom, humans would also be in a much better position to attain to proper belonging by owning-as-caring for, not possessing-as-exploiting the land we are born of: Indigenous/non-Indigenous historically, we all are indi-genous (< Lat. “in+born”) to planet Earth. By accepting our interdependence/ relatedness regarding all that surrounds us as a law and responsibility (Leroy Little Bear 2000, 2016; Tracy Lindberg, 2016, a.o.), pre-industrial paradigms going back to Antiquity and dissident/re-visionary/pioneering thinkers until today (D.Lorimer ed., 1999; W.Heisenberg, 1988) we would be honouring the ontological indigeneity we share with Indigenous peoples in Canada and elsewhere, and giving long-overdue recognition to the millennial practice-proven viability of their cognitive paradigms (Cajete, 1984,2000; D.McGregor, 2004,2008; Atleo, 2005,2011; Peat, 2005). Ergo, co-authoring an actual shared future beyond “reconciliation”.


Atleo, E. Richard [a.k.a. Umeek] (2004) Tsawalk: A Nuu-chah-nulth Worldview. Vancouver, Toronto: UBC Press.

———- (2011) Principles of Tsawalk: An Indigenous Approach to Global Crisis. Vancouver, Toronto: UBC Press.

Bateson, Gregory (1972) Steps to an Ecology of Mind. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Bingham, Charles & Alexander M. Sidorkin, eds (2004/2010) No Education without Relation. With a foreword by Nel Noddings. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Cajete, Gregory (1994) Look to the Mountain: An Ecology of Indigenous Education. Skyland, NC: Kivaki Press.

———- (2000) Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence. With a foreword by Leroy Little Bear, JD. Don Diego-Santa Fe, NM: Clear Light Publishers.

Carson, Rachel (1962) Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton Mufflin.

Code, Lorraine (2006) Ecological Thinking: The Politics of Epistemic Location. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Colorado, Pam (1988) Bridging Native and Western Science. Convergence 21(2/3). Pp?

d’Alisa, Giacomo, Federico Demaria and Giorgos Kallis, eds. (2015) Degrowth: a Vocabulary for a New Era. New York and London: Routledge.

Haraway, Donna (1988) Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective. Feminist Studies 14(3), pp. 575-599 (Autumn 1988). Appears in S. Harding, ed., The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader: Intellectual and Political Controversies. pp. 81-101. New York & London: Routledge.

Heisenberg, Werner (1973) Tradition in Science. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 29, 10, 4-11 (December 1973).

Little Bear, Leroy (2000) Foreword to Gregory Cajete (2000), pp.ix-xii.

———- (2016) ___________________________Keynote talk at Congress, 2016, University of Calgary, Alberta.

Lorimer, David, ed. (1998) The Spirit of Science: From Experiment to Experience. Edinburgh, Scotland: Floris Books.

McGregor, Deborah (2004) Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Sustainable Development: Towards Coexistence. In Mario Blaser, Harvey A. Feit, and Glenn McRae, eds., In the Way of Development: Indigenous Peoples, Life Projects and Globalization, pp. ??. Zed/IDRC.

———- (2008) Linking Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Western Science: Aboriginal Perspectives from the 2000 State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference. The Canadian Journal of Native Studies 28(1), pp.139-158.

Oruka, Henry Odera (1991) Sage Philosophy: Indigenous Thinkers and Modern Debate on African Philosophy, Nairobi, African Center for Technological Studies (ACTS) Press (also published by E. J. Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands, 1990).

Peat, F. David (2005) Blackfoot Physics: A Journey into the Native American Universe. Boston, MA: Weiser Books. First published in 1994 by Fourth Estate, London, UK, reprinted in 1996.

Pratt, Scott L. (2002) Native Pragmatism: Rethinking the Roots of American Philosophy. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980) directed by Jamie Uys. Released in South Africa in 1980 by Ster Kinekor Pictures.

Vokey, Daniel (2001) Moral Discourse in a Pluralistic World. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

Presented on Nov 3, 2016, at the 10th “Decolonizing the Spirit Conference”, UToronto

PHOTO GALLERY & KEYNOTES (Joyce King, Walter Mignolo…)

I’ll start by saying that i will not be doing a standard academic PPt presentation. I’ll only use 2 slides, without explaining each and every item – they will be a parallel discourse, setting the background, with which i’d expect the audience is well acquainted. The first one is a collage [shows onscreen, for most of the presentation], composed from images from TRC’s Report Summary (TRC, 2015) and Alanis Obomsawin’s partly autobiographical (one might say) cinematographic gravure When All the Leaves Are Gone (2011). The second slide will play a role in the conclusion.

Slide 1. Collage: Discursive Explorations. Credits: TRC Report Summary 2015; A. Obomsawin’s “When All the Leaves Are Gone” (2011)

Until we get to the conclusion, i invite you to consider a metaphor from a couple of lines by a 13th century Sufi[1] poet & sage – Rumi, with which i would like to gesture to the historical/cultural heritage that can be related to some of the other presentations:

A pearl goes up for auction. No one has enough, so the pearl buys itself.

On the eve of the 150th anniversary since Confederation (1867) – and thinking specifically about the PEOPLE who have been populating and today inhabit the territory of the 2nd largest country in the world, i keep asking the same overarching question — How DO WE restore and update for the present, and for the future, the mutual sustainability/enrichment aspect of the earliest Indigenous/non-Indigenous interactions, of which there would have been enough for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996)[2] to select “contact and co-operation” as the name for the initial period after the first encounters? If it happened then, why not bring it back again – not that the accumulated histories in between would make the task anywhere near easy or straightforward! Challenges notwithstanding, “reconciliation” must not serve as the final destination any more than “recognition” could, even in its best applicaitons.

Canada was born out of Indigenous/non-Indigenous unambiguously genetic and dynamic cultural/economic integration and hybridization (see John Ralston Saul’s A Fair Country). Influential studies in political science (e.g., Harold Innis) and history (e.g., James Ray I Was Here since the World Began), and the oral histories of Indigenous peoples (Tehanetorens) have presented plentiful evidence that the latter are rightful co-founders of the country, and “the nation”, if not the state, on a par with the French and the British, and indeed, over and above them, given Indigenous custodianship of the land. First peoples[3] were co-participants, and at critical points indispensable as far as basic survival, military action, or the fur trade.

I therefore submit that the Indigenous/non-Indigenous dyad is chronologically primary and ontologically foundational. It was reformulated as a dichotomy when the early power (im)balance started shifting in favour of Europeans and their colonization project. Confederation as per the so-called British North America Act of 1867, a.k.a. Constitution Act, was an agreement between the British and the French sides alone, with clear predominance of the former, and no legal/political agency was granted to Indigenous peoples. I would refer you to law professor Kathleen Mahoney’s (2015) keynote “Canada’s Origin Story”, which stakes precisely the claim that Indigenous peoples are co-founders as much as the British and the French, with the Spanish and the Dutch,[4] sufficiently early on, dropping out of the race for North America.

Solutions to the research question posed above that are considered in the public domain and in the academy tend to be top-down. The discourses feature “the Government”, “policy”, and blame for continuing – and largely unacknowledged – colonialism “the system” and “the state”. What i propose to zoom in on, much more (borrowing Dewey’s turn of phrase) “consciously and purposefully” than we currently do is the mundane little things that are easily overlooked but, when taken together, amount to ubiquitous colonialities that are as persistent as they are elusive. Conversely, it may well be that a critical mass of grassroots intent and action will be (most of) what it takes to decolonize a country in actuality.

In this micro-approach i side with historian Howard Zinn, who has repeatedly argued that the little people have a power not to be ignored by governments – recall his 2007 book A Power Governments Cannot Suppress. In a similar vein, Italian literary scholar and communication theorist Elena Lamberti, just a couple of weeks ago in a keynote talk at the University of Toronto, put it succinctly “Do not blame the system — we are the system!”. Therefore, i’d continue, “we” would be the real, enduring change, and a guarantee that there will be no comeback for the oppressions and exclusions that, once diagnosed, have been cleared away. After all, no printed document or Law can streamline the behaviour of the billions on the planet to the desired extent, unless governments/leaders and, to no lesser degree, the people are sufficiently invested in a social change/equilibrium project. The (non)observance of treaties is a case in point.

Clearly, reforms of the envisioned nature and scope hinge on consistent, attentive adjustments to innumerable occurrences of mundane micro-aggressions/oppressions: racism can be curbed at the point where a grade school student avoids/resents/bullies Indigenous others (cf. Obomsawin 2010). Consider a couple of correlations: had our society reached a level of consciousness that can keep our streets litter-free, we would also have had the capacity to protect the northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat from losing its school to diesel spills (CBCradio 2012; Shannen’s Dream 2011); if children were raised with, e.g., drumming ceremonies, Indigenous legal traditions could have become integral to the Constitution from the very start, and any treaties, to begin with, pre-Confederation or afterwards, would have been, and would be drafted more along the lines of the Great Peace of Montreal, co-signed in 1701 by the leadership of New France and over forty Indigenous nations (see Saul, 2014), and was attended by thirteen hundred delegates. The Indian Act of 1876 would not have happened, and its torturous corrections would not need to be happening now – a waste of human social energy, don’t you think?!

On the conceptual side, i have been imagining and advocating a relational pedagogy, both institutional AND broadly public, which is aligned with, for example, scholarship represented in Bingham & Sidorkin’s (2004) edited volume of the same title, Relational Pedagogy. Furthermore, because experience teaches that curricula and explicit instructions may by far be superseded by modes of human mental life that have been conceptualized as “collective unconscious” (Karl Jung) or “social imaginaries” (Cornelius Castoriadis, ????), i look at both the conscious level of learning and habit forming and below it, to where we seem to really be programmed for action.

To achieve the requisite deep-level social-reflex coding, i look for a passage between the rational/conscious and the subliminal/unconscious, and propose to recruit affect, which manifests as the interface of the two. For the purpose, i draw on theorizations of affect in the Spinoza – Deleuze & Guattari – Massumi lineage. The proposal is to recruit what i term “intersocial affects” for and through a thoroughgoing, life-long and all-round (self-)education. It needs to happen in the proposed directions, and at the proposed layers of humanity, in order to take actual, enduring effect.

All in all, a grassroots consciousness shift and action toward actual equity may well surpass the state’s top-down attempts – think of the power of the Idle No More movement, and the 4Rs, a comparable coalitional approach for Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth (see TRC, 2015: ???). My observations to date call for a commitment to the health of the foundational relationship by the day-to-day-&-grassroots “small” to finally turn around Canada’s – and, by analogy perhaps, the Earth’s – “whole” (cf. people power – Zinn 2007). This is because, by the laws of intersectionality no dichotomy rises or falls alone, so colonialism’s successful fall can be expected to take down with it (or, put alternatively, to require the combined transformation of) a good part of all … of the rest of our and the world’s outstanding dichotomies.

So, here’s my hermeneutic Pearl:

Mutual moral support, true caring, and so forth – subsumed under the umbrella of sustainable relationality – constitute a resource that is not only renewable, but it can be inexhaustible, limitless, if the requisite affect is constantly regenerated by interpersonal circulation and habituated effort. Somebody said, love your neighbour as yourself, another said LOVE IS ALL WE NEED – and, if i may, those who agree, WIN. From where i’ve been and searched, and what i’ve seen proven again and again, at this point i’d submit without hesitation that, not only has the potential of the humanity that’s encoded in us not been anywhere near sufficiently tapped into, but it hasn’t even begun to be recognized for what it is and can unfold into.

[1] Sufis constitute a mystical stream within Islam, among whom the Whirling Dervishes, with a strong belief in peace, kindness. Thomas A. Robinson and Hillary Rodrigues, World Religions – A Guide to the Essentials (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, Baker Publishing Group, second ed., 2014): pp. 116-138, passim; 227-313, passim.

[2] The impressively extensive RCAP Report (1996), and at the time a radical rewrite of history since contact, comprises five volumes with some 4,000 pages.

[3] The umbrella term for First Nations, Inuit and Metis.

[4] To the extent that the Spanish, and even more so the Dutch, were ever even sufficiently conspicuous north of the 45th parallel.

Slide 2. The heuristic pearl of Humanity. Image credits: “The People of the Kattawapiskak[1] River”, documentary by Alanis Obomsawin (2012)

The pearl of Humanity, then, which no single “buyer” could afford, saves itself. No other saviour need be on call for our sake, even if back-up options need to be appreciated.

IF — in Rumi’s voice, again, and the way i read him, on behalf of any and all of us – “What was said to the rose to make it open was said to me.” trans Coleman Barks???.


Bingham, Charles & Alexander M. Sidorkin, eds. (2004) No Education without Relation. Foreword by Nel Noddings. New York, NY: Peter Lang Verlag.

CBC Radio (2012) Feature on Attawapiskat. In CBC News in Review, February 2012, DVD. Toronto, ON: CBC Learning, c2012.

Government of Canada (1996) Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Volume I: Looking Forward, Looking Back.

Heartspeak (2011) Shannen’s Dream, DVD. Toronto: Heartspeak, 2011.

Mahoney, Kathleen (2015) “Canada’s Origin Story”. Keynote talk, Royal Society of Canada, November 27, 2015, University of Victoria.

Obomsawin, Alanis (2010) When All the Leaves Are Gone. NFB.

——— (2014) Trick or Treaty. NFB.

Zinn, Howard (2007) A Power Governments Cannot Suppress. San Francisco: City Lights Books.

Wilson, Janet (2011) Shannen and the Dream for a School. Toronto, ON: Second Story Press.


[1] Also known as Attawapiskat. Alanis Obomsawin approximates the Cree pronunciation.

KUDOS for post go to Sam and Tracy’s blog “Fit Is a Feminist Issue”:

…As professional philosophers, it’s second nature for us to ask questions: what does it mean to be fit? What are appropriate measures for the goal? And, from a feminist perspective, in what way(s) does women’s quest for fitness and health contribute to empowerment and/or oppression?.. MORE from “About Fit” page

Sam sent me this link to a BBC article entitled “Girls say they hate their vaginas,” quoting Dr. Naomi Crouch, a gynecologist for adolescent girls. Dr. Crouch says, and I agree, “for a girl to feel that way about any part of her body, let alone a part that is intimate, is really upsetting.” The […]

via “Girls say they hate their vaginas.” WTF? — Fit Is a Feminist Issue


July 2017


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