Embodied encounters with more-than-human nature in health and physical education



Publication Details

Taylor, N., Wright, J. & O'Flynn, G. (2019). Embodied encounters with more-than-human nature in health and physical education. Sport, Education and Society, 24 (9), 914-924.


Despite the importance of interactions with natural environments for personal and social well-being, there is only limited evidence of the relationship between the environment and health as an idea or area of study in school education in Australia. Logically, the place for such a study, at least in Australia, would be within the Health & Physical Education (HPE) key learning area. However, in HPE, alternative ways of considering health beyond the dominant 'healthism' discourses which privilege physical activity, fitness, food and nutrition struggle for any kind of existence. Gruenewald (2004. A Foucauldian analysis of environmental education: Toward the socioecological challenge of the earth charter. Curriculum Inquiry, 34(1), 71-107) suggests looking to the margins of a field to see what knowledge is silenced or subjugated in order to open up new conditions of possibility. This challenged us to look beyond taken for granted ways of thinking about health to identify other resources, perhaps unrecognised as yet, that teachers might draw on to constitute their knowledge of health. To do this, we look to interview data collected when teachers were asked to talk about their personal experiences of the relationship between the environment and health. The analysis of the interviews demonstrated how the teachers conceptualised the relationship between the environment and health by drawing on embodied experiences and affective encounters with more-than-human nature. By theorising these encounters through a post-human, new-materialist lens, we demonstrate how their corporeal knowledge, developed through embodied experiences, has the potential to assist teachers in formulating less institutionalised health understandings. We argue that these encounters with more-than-human nature can serve as alternatives to those dominant healthism discourses that invoke problematic risk, fear and crisis responses.

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