A Place Pedagogy for ‘Global Contemporaneity’ by Margaret J. Somerville

by stronged

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this paper on the importance of establishing the importance of place in contemporary pedagogical practices. Using her experience ‘Reinhabiting’ (334) Patsy Cohen to her Ingelba people, Tony Perkins investigation into the massacres of the Yarrawarra people, the interactive experiences of the teacher-student Morwell River Wetlands project, and her own experiential investigation by massage activating body-in-place sensations, Somerville has formulated a methodology to implement an ‘ecologicial connectivity’ to place.

The key elements of her conceptual framework include:

  1. Relationship to place constituted by stories (and other representations)
  2. Body as connecting device to our experience of place
  3. The cultural contact of place establishes a ‘zone of contestation/contact’ (326)

The first point is most attractive to my understanding of place. My experience in narrative construction equips me with a passion for storytelling and identity. Jacque Derrida’s expansion on Sassaure’s ‘theory of the sign’, theorising that we all defer and differ in order to derive meaning from representations ties in with Bogost’s discussions of the entanglement of flat ontology. Somerville briefly explains the binaries of subject/object and mind/body as crucial to unpacking Liz Grosz’s notion of ‘putting the body at the centre of…subjectivity. (Grosz, 1994, p.5)’ (337) The ‘mirror stage’ (Ibid) is ‘the point at which binary oppositions are created (Lacan, 1977).’

The research paper was constructed with short autobiographical passages from Somerville’s life at the head of each category of investigation (i.e. Introduction, Place, Place Pedagogies, Elements of a Place Pedagogy, etc.) to lead the reader into how her research fits in on a personal level. This technique also enables the reader a somewhat palpable connection with the subject matter – especially as she is a local to Melbourne – and positions her research in a realistic framework.

There is much to be learned from the indigenous connection with land. This is now tying neatly into the sustainability movement in allowing ‘settled’ Australians a foothold to a) reconcile with Indigenous Australians, b) understand the Indigenous culture of the land we inhabit, and c) take culturally traditional values and practices as a model to establish a new sustainable relationship with the land – in the hope of decreasing our effects on climate change.

Interactive pedagogy was only briefly touched upon in this paper, Somerville mentioning how photos and stories of the Wetlands project were uploaded online to establish a connection with schools in Oregon, USA.