The end of the world and a promise of happiness : Environmental and sustainability education within the cultural politics of emotions

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The end of the world and a promise of happiness : Environmental and sustainability education within the cultural politics of emotions

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Title The end of the world and a promise of happiness : Environmental and sustainability education within the cultural politics of emotions
Author(s) Ideland, Malin
Date 2016
English abstract
Education for sustainability and environment (ESE) is characterized by notions about securing the future for the world and for its inhabitants. The world is threatened and its destiny lies in the hands of human kind. One important solution of the problem with a possible environmental catastrophe is ESE: human sins and problems can be washed away through education (Popkewitz, 2008). Thus, ESE policy is in this paper discussed in terms of what Michel Foucault (1983) conceptualized as pastoral power, a governing technology operating through constructing humankind as in need of salvation. The individual is governed through his/her soul, through the consciousness, feelings and the interior of the mind. One governing technique targeting the “soul” is to create standards for reasonable emotions in relation to environmental problems as well as solutions. Distinctions between appropriate, and respectively, unproductive and/or sinful emotions express the double gesture of hope and fear embedded in what Popkewitz (2008) describes as the cultural theses of cosmopolitanism. In this discourse, the child as an unfinished cosmopolitan carries the hopes of a bright future, but also the fear of decay and hopelessness. The child needs to be rescued from the category of a dangerous population that threatens the world with its way of living. This paper investigates ways of talking about emotion in texts about ESE. How are these texts, embedded in the double gesture of hope and fear, governing through describing what is a (ir)rational interior of the mind? How do they draw boundaries for who counts as a reasonable or unreasonable citizen? In other words, what are the technologies of emotions that construct the environmentä done through technologies of erelated goals illing to contribute to n of the citizen, and it is done through technologies of eally friendly person, and respectively, the risky Other – the affect alien who feels the “wrong” thing at the “right” time or the “right” thing at the “wrong” time (Ahmed, 2010) and by that threatens the sustainability project. In my analysis of emotions in ESE, I turn to critical race theorist Sara Ahmed’s work on the cultural politics of emotions. Emotions are often described as individual and even intimate, but Ahmed rather sees them as socially organizing the world. She escapes the psychological view of emotions as something which comes from the inside, entering the outside – the “inside out” perspective. Further, she distances her work from a group psychological perspective, the outside entering the inside – the “outside in” perspective. Instead, she states that it is through emotions “that surfaces or boundaries are made” (Ahmed 2014, 10). Ahmed conceptualizes emotions as “sticky”; they glue communities together, while at the same time, they position the Other on the outside. Emotions do things on a cultural level: they set up the distinctions between normality and those who need to be included into that normality. Some emotions are elevated and seen as signs of cultivation and reason, while others are signs of the opposite. A “reasonable” citizen can’t have either too strong or too weak feelings, those are excluding from a community. The question here is how an engagement in environmental degradation and a possible end of the world (if we believe the reports on for instance climate change) actually become transformed into (sometimes called productive) emotions such as happiness and hope rather than anxiety and despair. How are negative feelings displaced in and through the educational discourse? What consequences does it get in terms of constructions of the reasonable child, possible to trust the world, and the Other in need to change to enter the category of normality?
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Publisher EERA
Pages 1-3
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) emotions
Sara Ahmed
education for sustainability and environment
Education for sustainable development
critical race theory
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::SOCIAL SCIENCES
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