In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Post-humanism and Environmental Education

  • Introduction
  • Foundation Works
  • Posthuman, New Materialist, and Environmental Philosophies
  • Posthuman and Educational Theory
  • Reimagining and Applying Theories in Research
  • Anthropocene, Climate, Place, Colonialization, and Queer Perspectives
  • Childhood Nature Concepts
  • Multispecies and Object Concepts
  • Pedagogies
  • Formal Learning Contexts
  • Community and Outdoor Learning Contexts
  • Handbooks and Glossaries
  • Book Series
  • Journals Posthuman and Environmental Education

Education Post-humanism and Environmental Education
Karen Malone, Tracy Young, Chi Tran
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 October 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 October 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0308


Posthumanist thinking opens new possibilities for research that informs new imaginaries for teaching and learning in environmental education. Posthumanism attends to decentering the human, by seeking the means to acknowledge and navigate our symbiotic relationship of being in the world with a host of others. A posthumanist perspective therefore takes seriously the need to halt the “anthropological machine,” the constant “production” of absolute dividing lines between humans and the rest of the natural world. Posthumanist theorizing also reflects a philosophical understanding that extends subjectivities beyond the human species by disrupting the dominance of anthropocentric thinking and humancentric ethics in Western imperial thought. Both posthuman and new materialist approaches seek to rework the human subject and disrupt the Cartesian divide by being critical of binaries such as the human/nature, object/subject, divide have emerged. Posthuman and materialist thought in Western imperial thought can be traced back to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ historical materialism, Alfred North Whitehead’s process philosophy, Baruch Spinoza’s monism, certain post-phenomenological approaches, animisms, Buddhism, and often neglected “relational knowledges” attributed to First Nations and Indigenous people. The recent work of Deleuze and Guattari and Rosi Braidotti has been influential in making bridges between these past philosophies located in the humanities and the emergence of a “new humanities”—posthumanism. With the advent of the posthuman turn, many deep ecologists, ecofeminists, and non-Western philosophers sought also to disrupt and shake the values and ethical systems within the science and social science disciplines, with a view to shift consensus of default and entrenched environmental worldviews. This new paradigm was seen as critical if humanity was to respond to the ecological atrocities and legacies of Western capitalism. Post-anthropocentrism was argued as an imperative if humans were to counter the ecological crisis. As was the naming of the Anthropocene, adding a sense of urgency to address and reconstitute the human/nature disconnect. The critical role of environmental education, sustainability education, and outdoor education to engage everyday citizens through education at all levels was seen as a global concern. By unpacking posthumanism and how it aligns with environmental education, the authors of this article aim to generate thought-provoking ideas for educators, researchers, and authors who are exploring and writing papers on this topic. The entry is divided into thirteen sections.

Foundation Works

The first section includes significant contributors to the big ideas in foundational texts informing the posthuman turn in humanities and social sciences that has influenced education theory and environmental education. This section starts with three influential and pioneering theoretical works. First exploring humans and nature, Latour 2004 makes the shift of ecology from a science into the philosophical terrains of an ecological collective. Next, engaging with posthumanism as expansion of feminist thought the most significant book of its time on posthumanism, Braidotti 2013,defined the field. Finally, the emergence of theories of agential realism by Barad 2007 supported a feminist reading for crossing discipline lines and a new way to look at matter as an intra-active materiality. As Braidotti 2013 identifies, the posthumanist turn is a continuation, extension, and disruption of a poststructuralist critique which maps and engages with the deconstruction of humanism and anthropocentrism and potentially provides environmental educators and researchers with an experimental space to be both open and provocative. Materialism/new materialism is a supporting theory to posthumanism and contributes to the discourses of the posthuman, builds on the agential realism of Barad 2007 with a deeper questioning of how the material world functions. We can see this in two key books, Coole and Frost 2010, and Dolphijn and Van der Tuin 2012. Critical posthumanities, supported by Murris 2020, for example provides the critical aspects of the posthuman and is well aligned with post-qualitative research methodologies and new materialism. This alignment allows space to explore teaching and learning that is relational, situated, and accountable. Post-qualitative research pays attention to an entangled world, while also being hierarchical and power driven. Mechanical and historical materialisms, as illustrated in Chandler 2021, figure prominently in debates about how the world between humans and nature functions and the origins of humanistic worldviews of human superiority over nature. The final book in this section, Nhat Hanh 2009, provides an Eastern philosophical provocation premised on the essential knowledges of human and more-than-humans as relational. The author’s work is driven by the concept of interbeing, which reveals a potential intersection of East-West posthumanist and new materialist genealogies. These works provide a foundation for any author wanting to work with these theories in the humanities and social sciences.

  • Barad, K. 2007. Meeting the universe halfway. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctv12101zq

    Written by a theoretical physicist this book has been instrumental in supporting the creative development of much of the thinking and writing in agential realism and new materialism. This book is centrally about entanglements and entanglement physics. It offers an opportunity to view the world not as separate pieces but as a dynamic set of vital possibilities of space-time-mattering, providing a new ontology, epistemology, and ethics for viewing the world.

  • Braidotti, R. 2013. The posthuman. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

    The Posthuman offers both an introduction and major contribution to contemporary debates on posthuman theoretical approaches and the extent to which a posthumanist move displaces the traditional humanistic unity of the subject. Braidotti argues that the posthuman helps us make sense of our flexible and multiple identities. Braidotti then analyzes the escalating effects of post-anthropocentric thought, which encompass not only other species, but also the sustainability of the planet.

  • Braidotti, R. 2017. Critical posthuman knowledges. The South Atlantic Quarterly 116.1: 83–96.

    DOI: 10.1215/00382876-3749337

    This essay outlines a framework by which to understand critical posthumanities as a paradigm of thought and a form of knowledge, based on the melding of posthumanism and post-anthropocentrism. Braidotti proposes a neo-Spinozist monistic ontology that adopts radical immanence, as well as a mind-body and nature-culture continuum shaped by the union of Zoe, geographical, and technological dimensions.

  • Chandler, David. 2021. Materialisms. In The Bloomsbury companion to Marx. Edited by A. Pendakis, I. Szeman, and J. Diamanti, 563–568. London: Bloomsbury.

    This book chapter provides insights into various materialisms before discussing the ideal time for new materialism to contribute to humanity’s scholarship with discourses that reposition the human within the nonhuman world. Specifically, genealogical continuity and discontinuity between the materialist traditions of mechanical materialism, historical/Marxist materialism, and new materialism, demonstrates how mechanical and historical materialisms view nature as a machine consisting of fixed, passive, lifeless, linear causal relations.

  • Coole, Diana, and Samantha Frost, eds. 2010. New materialisms: Ontology, agency, and politics. Durham, NC, and London: Duke Univ. Press.

    This book adopts a new materialist onto-epistemology based on emergent, relational, and non-dual approaches and reflects on the broader implications of the material turn. It is regarded as a collection of posthumanist discussions regarding the agency and vitality of matter. It generates a growing interest in challenging the deeply ingrained anthropocentric concept of agency and classifies these developments into three major trends, including ontology/agency, bioethics/biopolitics, and critical materialism.

  • Dolphijn, Rick, and Iris van der Tuin. 2012. New materialism: Interviews & cartographies. Open Humanities Press.

    DOI: 10.3998/ohp.11515701.0001.001

    This book offers a theoretical foundation, addressing the various confluences and resonances of the new materialist framework. It explains how and why numerous new materialist strands contain resonances between old/new/rereadings of materialist genealogies. It also explains how new materialist scholars rework and rethink materiality and matter via concepts such as Barad’s agential realism, intra-action, and entanglement; Haraway’s worlding; Bennett’s thing-hood, matter-energy, and vibrant matter; Braidotti’s Zoe; and Latour’s actant.

  • Latour, B. 2004. Politics of nature: How to bring the sciences into democracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.4159/9780674039964

    Politics of Nature establishes the conceptual context for political ecology, transplanting the terms of ecology into more fertile philosophical soil than its proponents have thus far envisioned. This book proposes an end to the old dichotomy between nature and society and the constitution, in its place, of a collective, a community incorporating humans and nonhumans and building on the experiences of the sciences as they are practiced.

  • Murris, K., ed. 2020. Navigating the postqualitative, new materialist and critical posthumanist terrain across disciplines: An introductory guide. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

    This book provides a guide to theories, paradigm shifts, and key concepts in postqualitative, new materialist and critical posthumanist research. Disrupting a traditional theory/practice divide, this book rethinks traditional research, inviting researchers to consider an ontological re-turn through Indigenous knowledges, African, Eastern, and young children’s philosophies. This book is supported by a website of practical resources and provocations to support learning with the texts and authors of the volume.

  • Nhat Hanh, Thich. 2009. The heart of understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.

    Nhat Hanh’s Buddhist cosmological worldview describes being in touch with the present and receiving the past from ancestors and cosmic histories that penetrate the soil of human consciousnesses. The philosophy of emptiness, the five skandhas, and the concept of interbeing developed by Nhat Hanh serve as provocateurs in the knowledge creation between human beings, the natural world, and more-than-human beings at the intersection of East-West posthumanist and new materialist genealogies.

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