Mahul Phul

GTDF Contribution towards Mahul Phul: Infinitely Indigenous

A practice of Collective Intelligence anchored in/by the Academy of Tribal Language and Culture (ATLC).

Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures (GTDF)

  • trans-disciplinary collective of researchers, artists, educators, students and Indigenous knowledge keepers 
  • interface of questions related to historical, systemic and ongoing violence and questions related to the unsustainability of modern institutions and ways of being
  • brings together concerns related to racism, colonialism, unsustainability, climate change, biodiversity loss, economic instability, mental health crises, and intensifications of social and ecological violence 
  • Non-Western psychoanalytic approach informed by work with Indigenous people in Latin America and Canada

When we started as a collective, we wanted to identify and have a deeper understanding of ways of knowing, doing and being that set horizons of hope:

  • beyond modern forms of social-economy (e.g. capitalism, socialism and anarchism)
  • beyond nation states and borders as mediators of relations 
  • beyond the separation between “man” and nature (human supremacy, patriarchy and anthropocentrism)
  • beyond a single rationality and story of progress, development and civilization (epistemic imperialism of modernity)
  • beyond social mobility as the purpose of life (the “good life”)
  • beyond consumption (of goods, knowledge, relationships, experiences and critique) as a mode of relating to the world

Our analysis was based on a critique of “modernity” that makes it visible how modernity is inseparable from the violences of colonialism, of how it has set us on a dangerous path of premature human extinction (mass extinction in slow motion) by promoting 4 denials:

  • the denial of systemic violence and complicity in harm: the fact that the comforts, securities and enjoyments of the privileged classes are subsidized by expropriation and exploitation of people and the land
  • the denial of the limits of the planet: the fact that the planet cannot sustain exponential growth and consumption indefinitely 
  • the denial of entanglement: our insistence in seeing ourselves as separate from each other and the land, rather than “entangled” within a living wider metabolism that is bio-intelligent
  • the denial of the magnitude and complexity of the challenges we will need to face together: the tendency to look for simplistic solutions that make us feel and look good and that may address symptoms, but not the root causes of our collective complex predicament

Social map: The house that modernity built

Soft reform, radical reform, house beyond reform

Wicked Challenges

Wicked challenges are hyper-complex, multi-layered, interlocked (the solution for one thing creates problems in other places), involve many unknowns, have longer and uncertain timescales. Education, governance and decolonization are wicked challenges.

Western education does not equip people to address wicked challenges (of views and aspirations), paradoxes, unequal power relations, and conflicts that are inherent in them. 

If we address wicked challenges as regular problems, our interventions will tend to reproduce harmful patterns of:

  • Simplistic “feel good” solutions that may address symptoms, but not root causes
  • Paternalistic engagements with marginalized communities
  • Ethnocentric ideals of justice, sustainability and change

Importance of addressing decolonization as a life-long, life-wide collective inquiry:

  • Not seeking universal formulas or solutions
  • Recognizing plurality and complexity of communities, understandings and aspirations
  • No single simple stories of decolonization (embracing complexity and uncertainty)
  • Deep experimentation before scaling up (answers are emergent)
  • Attention to context and experimentation
  • Beyond linear dialectical thinking (if A is bad, the reverse is good)
  • Holding  multiple moving layers of complexity, not being immobilized by tensions, contradictions
  • Learning from failures as well as successes 
  • Learning from others (e.g. Bolivian Ministry of Decolonization)
  • Ecology of knowledges: all knowledges are limited and interconnected – we need all hands on deck to address the wicked challenges of our time

Mahul Phul: Questions

1. Globally or as GTDF envisions, what does decolonizing education mean for education for indigenous peoples

It will mean different things for different Indigenous communities and probably for different generations within Indigenous communities. Please see this map of 8 different approaches developed for a Blackfoot Nation in Canada. What will work in your context will depend on several factors, including the government approach, the aspirations of communities, the level of identification or disidentification with the house of modernity

2. What structural shifts in education systems are needed for inter generational identity and knowledge reconciliation

A collective intergenerational deeper understanding of how society has shifted as a result of mass technology and advanced capitalism is key.  It is also important to understand the state of existential threat we are facing in relation to the planet and the state of existential dread that young people in the global north are showing when they think about their future. Learning from the mistakes of the global north is essential here and figuring out a way of valorizing the Indigenous practices that can promote resilience as we face major social and structural storms ahead.

3. Along with these shifts needed, what structures for self determination in choices of education – what to learn, what life pathways to choose etc… can still be embedded in education systems? 

It is important to understand that the options we see today may not be available tomorrow as the storms move in. Young people will no longer have only one path but will have to change paths constantly. The ability to be existentially grounded in a healthy culture that is connected to the land will make a huge difference for children to make smart choices with a view to benefit and protect their communities.

4. What institutions beyond schools need to be imagined for education relevant for indigenous children

These answers need to come from the ground. Intergenerational language nests worked well in New Zealand, for example. Other places have created Indigenous universities and these Indigenous universities take different forms in soft, radical and beyond reform approaches. We work with the University of the forest in the amazon in Brazil which is just about protecting Indigenous peoples relationship with the forest through the protection of songs, stories and ceremonies that are passed down through generations

5. How is multicultural education possible in existing education structures where it’s not just treated as an extra class but borrows the spirit of indigenous cultures? 

The bond that brings people together needs to go beyond identity and culture – identity and culture are human constructs that define how we are separated from each other. We need a form of education that understands how we are connected with each other and the planet beyond human constructs, and how that connection commands responsibility for everything.

6. What are culture elements beyond language, living practices and ecology? 

Culture is a human construct that creates a story about the relationship we have with the world, but our relationship with the world exceeds what language, culture and identity can capture – we all rely on the living planet to eat, to have shelter, to have a balanced neurobiology that is dynamically exchanging with the beings around us all the time. It is always metabolizing. If we understand ourselves as separate cultural entities rather than organic parts of a larger metabolism that is constant transformation, our answers are limited by the language/culture/identities available to us. But if we see them as human constructs, we can embrace the mystery of our existence and our relationship with the more-than-human world. Ou existence has several dimensions: cognitive (intellectual frameworks), affective (how we manifest emotions and process fears and traumas), relational (the scope of possibilities for connecting with others and the land), economic (how we exchange energy/resources), and ecological (how we face the different stages of life, including death). The neglect of the material part of our existence that happened as a result of the privileging of competing human constructs/narratives is what got us into this mess.

7. Through shifts in education of indigenous peoples how do we move from multiculturalism to transculturalism?

Focus less on culture and identity and more on the materiality of our collective entanglement, interdependence and vulnerability.

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