EVENTS: Becoming hummus in Melbourne

Pauliina’s and Anna’s first ever Australian Association for Research in Education annual meeting started with considering Nietzsche on misery and education. This uplifting session was provided by the Educational Philosophy and Theory SIG. The misery seemed to be that of clinging on to humanism as providing a refuge from the chaotic world populated by animality (at least this view was making Pauliina miserable [in fact, this entire post is fabricated by Pauliina; Anna might write about her AARE experience separately]). Humanity was hailed – once again – distinct from animality because of our use of language (people might have believed this in Heidegger’s and Nietzsche’s late 19th and early 20th century Germany, but we’ve known better for decades now).

Moving on to History of Education SIG, via walking round the inside of the gigantic Melbourne Cricket Ground (site of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics) and observing the native birds take part in a game of what seemed to be cricket (seriously, it just looks like a group of men are inspecting the grounds). Julie McLeod talked about the history of progressive education in Australia, stating that progressive thought materialised in school space, design and buildings, and played out on student’s bodies (e.g., clothing, hair) – and was shaped by books as not just material objects but active historical agents.

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For the remainder of the conference, Pauliina stuck to the Poststructural Theory SIG, quite contently. Mindy Blaise and Catherine Hamm introduced their Bark Studio, paying attention to how human children could be decentred by thinking with bark, attending to the already existing relations between children and bark (among other things) rather than crafting ‘teachable moments’. Linda Knight combined contemporary art and trendy post-concepts – materiality, strata, and representations – in discussing how theoretical scholars frequently reference artists or works of art in order to help them think. She also talked about ‘becoming hummus’ which Pauliina wrote down in her notebook enthusiastically, and with an exclamation mark, but has since forgotten the context in which it was said (and so now has no idea what it means).

Pauliina had waited to hear Bernadette Baker’s presentation on the history of visual (essentialism) so she arrived at the session well in advance. The relentless pace of Bernadette’s talking combined with the fast changing filled-to-the-rim text slides made Pauliina’s non-native-English head give up however. The following thing ended up in her notebook nevertheless. With the birth of the ‘learning science’ through increasing knowledge of how the human brain works we can know for example when it is optimal for a child to start learning a second language – but ‘learning science’ doesn’t tell us which language it should be.

Margaret Somerville’s new ARC funded project Naming the World (of which Pauliina is an international Partner Investigator) held a symposium for the first time as a group. Eight scholars – Anette Woods, Abigail Hackett, Pauliina, Margaret Somerville, Iris Duhn, Anna Vladimirova, Sarah Powell and Sarah Crinall all presented their work on emergence and literacies in early childhood, and received positive, encouraging feedback. Pauliina is still not quite over what a clever group of scholars Margaret has managed to get together.

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Just as surely as she had received Pauliina on her arrival to Australia a week earlier, Karen Malone continued to flaunt her super hosting skills spiced with her sweet but feisty personality and took Pauliina to StKilda beach where they spotted a tiny fairy penguin. And enjoyed truffle mushrooms with local wine.

Melbourne treated Pauliina nicely but with brutal honesty. She had always known she didn’t have an impressive sense of directions but this city stole the last bit of her confidence as someone who can navigate real environments in addition to conceptual jungles. The perfectly round cricket ground confused her constantly. The perfectly squared grid plan of downtown Melbourne made her walk around for miles in all the wrong directions. At one point she walked past a cafe and a man, sitting at an outside table, noticed her crow tattoo: “Hey, nice crow!”. She thanked him and simultaneously noticed a bookshop which she entered. Only to find a book about crows and grieving – nothing short of the theme of her keynote lecture just a week earlier.

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The last conference day ended with a soulful, delicate, yet powerful and skillfully theorised symposium comprising four papers. Angela Foley talked about ‘rubbing back and bonding’ with data, deep mapping and intimate sensing of country. Sarah Crinall’s bodyblogging shed light to a postmodern emergence or an emerging methodology; to a preserved past meeting a future under construction; and to sustaining one’s own life as an animal mother, as water, as a nest, as a place, in order to be able to explore the notion of sustainability as if from within – and as more than oneself. Abby Buckley asked after our relationship and feelings about death. Where do we learn to feel the way we do about death, about dead people? What does it do to us -as humans, communities, cultures – when death is tucked away and dealt away efficiently? Surely the binary of life and death is not as clearcut as we’re used to thinking it is.

Sue Collins ended the symposium in search for the ‘waist of time’ – something she could wrap her arms around and dance with. Her chickens were referenced and their nest pictured. Frosty mornings as well as decaying wooden buildings made their way from Sue’s past in to the present conference room and begun to send Pauliina off homeward bound into the future. Back to freshly fallen snow, chickens, dogs, birds, special people and a big messy house.

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