I took my lead in thinking about posthuman pedagogy from considering Hayles’s critique of anthropocentrism and Pederson’s critques of, firstly, the ‘”humanist” tradition, where the human subject is considered both the instrument and the end product of education’, and, secondly, the ‘distinct human-animal boundary’. On the instrumental level, as Pederson points out, we might consider animal-assisted therapy. However, what I felt was more problematic was to consider notions of education without the human subject as the end product. This might mean learning that does not recognise humans as being esclusively able to learn in what we consider to be a ‘human way’ because there is a biological continuum from human to animal; for instance to be seen in research into animal language, originally expounded on in LaMettrie’s views on teaching apes to talk, but now carried on in reserch into animal communication.

However, thinking about breaking down the ‘distinct human-animal boundary’ and where that was part of our imaginings of what it is, or is not, to be human, I came to think of firstly monsters, both biological and technological and often a cross-over between human and animal, and secondly the monstrous or other-worldly. On searching on the monstrous and pedagogy, I found Tyson E. Lewis and Richard Khan’s book ‘Education out of bounds: reimagining cultural studies for a Posthuman Age’ and a number of other exopedagogic studies or commentaries, mostly linking back to Lewis and Khan. Exopedagogy, exo- meaning on the outside, and its pertinency to learning, is touched on in a medieval studies group blog, In the Middle, that quotes from Lewis and Khan’s book:

Here the prefix “exo” designates the beyond, an education out of bounds, whose location resides at the very limits of the recognizable – where we learn to study the zone of unin habitability that indicates the untimely arrival of a swarm of monsters and strangers. It is, in other words, a pedagogy that concerns the sudden appearnce of “strange facts” (Daston and Park 2001) that exist beynd the field of common sense. If monsters have traditionally been banned from philosophy as dangerous obstructions to be sacrificed or as mere illusions (Kearney 2003), then so too had education more often than not been involved in projects that (a) repress the monstrous within or (b) project the monstrous onto the outside world…Exopedagogy helps us navigate the various narrative of the monstrous emerging from our state of phantasmagoria – reactionary monsters, commodified monsters, and creative/constituting monsters. At its best, exopedagogy utilizes the bestiary in order to intensify the savage and zoomorphic vectors of a radical imagination beyond the law of the community (the sacrificial strategy), the law of capitalism (the expropriation of surplus -value), and the law of the human (the anthropocentric valorization of human creative power, linguistic production, and cognitive capacity). In this sense, exopedagogy is both savagely critical and creatively posthuman – producing new political narratives emerging from seemingly uninhabitable terrains. (Lewis and Khan)

The blogger indicates that the book would be of us to those interested in monsters and/or the posthuman and that is, for me, the interest in the exopedagogic approach. Lewis and Khan’s book does talk of monsters faeries and the like, but the exopedagogic approach is not merely one of subject. The monstrous was first of all of interest to me through Victorian studies, considering cultural phenomena such as freak shows, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, but also, in and beyond Victorian studies, to look at representations of sexuality or otherness as monstrous, such as in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, surely a text for posthumanist study?  And the study of the monstrous could also be extended to the strange, the other, the borderline, the cyborg and so on. Given the usage of the word monstrous in relation to women, ever since John Knox’s ‘The first blast of the trumpet against the monstrous regimen of women,’ one can also often identify the critique of the monstrous with aspects of women’s and feminist studies. for instance in some readings of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. However, the importance of the matter is what it tells us about meaning and about the exopedagogic approach. The expopedagogic does not put man at the centre but rather suggests that we look at the borders and the edges, at the strange and the different, or even make the familiar unfamilar. The blogger’s following comment suggests a pedagogic approach that matches with Sian Bayne’s work on the uncanny within learning:

What’s most challenging of all, though, is [Lewis and Khan's] call to make teaching spaces — not just classrooms, but public spaces — zones for uncanny happenings, affective communal undertakings, uncomfortable becomings, and the intensification of the “savage and zoomorphic” imagination.

Lewis and Khan’s suggestion that exopedagogy use ‘the bestiary’ to disrupt the norms of society, law and pedagogy takes us beyond only looking at ‘monstrous’ subjects to consider the learner as zoomorphic, able to understand and learn through questioning what the human is. An excellent example of this is a friend’s Moodle course which combines both matter and meaning, a demo version of which is to be found here - Out of the Digital Dungeon: exploring gender and technology in Sci Fi, Fantasy and Horror Films.

3 Comments so far

  1.    Jen Ross on December 2, 2011 10:30 am      Reply

    Fantastic connections in this post, Carol – I love what you’ve done using the figure of the monster to link a) our course readings and b) the history of otherness (women, animals, and so on). Too bad you’ve already got your final assignment topic – this would be another excellent one! Thanks for the link to the “out of the digital dungeon” course – I look forward to exploring that.

  2.    Neil David Buchanan on December 4, 2011 4:41 pm      Reply

    Fascinating post – I think it’s elemental to our understanding of these concepts that we accept that this is not a linear progression but rather something much more complex and “loopy” – your reference to John Knox highlights just how entangled so much of our “posthuman” is with what has happened before. We need to gather with the past. “An education out of bounds” is such an exciting idea!

  3.    Carol Jane Collins on December 7, 2011 3:51 pm      Reply

    Thanks Jen and Neil

    Somewhat serendipitously I came across a talk on booktwo.org that mentioned Render Ghosts – fascinating and not unrelated to exopedagogy. I’ve written more on it in this week’s summary and would be interested to hear what you think!

Name (required)

Email (required)


Speak your mind