The Natural World as Colonized Other(s): Educational Implications

Sean Blenkinsop, Laura Piersol, Michael D. Sitka-Sage, Yi Chien Jade Ho

Abstract


This paper begins with two parallel, although not identical, images. The first is of Ota Benga, a Congolese “pygmy” brought to the St. Louis World Fair in 1904 and displayed in a cage for the entertainment of the visiting public. The second is of a Red Maple tree in a large concrete pot on the campus of Simon Fraser University on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwəta?/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples. The remainder of the paper is an exploration of the varied responses these two images provoked for students, colleagues, and conference participants when confronted with the juxtaposition. In searching for an explanation, the paper deploys the work of Tunisian anti-colonial scholar Albert Memmi. Using Memmi’s work as an anchor, we explore five of the most common responses in order to propose that “the natural world” and its myriad beings is/are colonized. This realization, we conclude, has dramatic implications for environmental education.

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