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(Re)Imagining Education in Place: Navigating (Non)Relationality and Teaching Responsibilities Under Settler-Colonial Conditions

10:00, Wednesday 10 May 2023 EDT (30 minutes)

In their call to relationality, Starblanket and Stark (2018) emphasize that although settler colonialism is structural, it operates, is expressed, and is resisted through everyday encounters and interactions. Informed by literature that centres relationality to examine everyday encounters in social spaces, including within educational and settler colonial contexts, I consider the complex consequences of such conditions as they normalize and uphold settler hegemony and distort and deny everyday settler- Indigenous realities. This research explores teachers’ sense of responsibility to challenge their teaching practices within a context of relationality—a responsibility that is fundamental to education-as- reconciliation (Korteweg & Fiddler, 2018). Under this premise of relationality, I analyze in-depth interviews with twenty non-Indigenous elementary and secondary school teachers who describe, reflect on, and share narratives of community life as professionals and residents of a small resource town in North-Central Québec. Through rich accounts of intercultural and settler-Indigenous relations, teachers offer insight into how they navigate and respond to the educational, cultural, and social environments they work and live in. I use a place-sensitive approach (Butler & Sinclair, 2020) to better understand teachers’ lived experiences and to identify and examine the discourses they draw on to make sense of their everyday encounters, roles, and responsibilities. Their perspectives illuminate the ways that the social and cultural dynamics of this town, within and beyond educational spheres, influence their teaching. Of key concern are the ways teachers understand, inhabit, wrestle with, and sometimes reject normative settler relationalities emerging from uneven landscapes of power. A powerful confluence of place, educational structures, and dominant relationalities under settler-colonial conditions is revealed. From these accounts, it is possible to consider the dimensions of local teaching that inform the (non)relational stances they inhabit and the responsibilities that guide their teaching. Findings indicate that familiarity, settler unawareness, and contact feature importantly in how teachers interpret and respond to people and place. Such nonrelational thinking obscures white settler colonialism’s effects on the everyday, eclipses Indigeneity, misconstrues Indigenous presence in local social and educational landscapes, and reinforces teachers’ positions of non-engagement in their teaching, hindering the potential of education-as-reconciliation. This work hopes to contribute to ongoing discussions focused on cultivating relational pathways that respond to and account for uneven landscapes of power and support responsibilities towards equitable relations within and beyond education.

Queen's University
PhD Candidate
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