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The Contested Space of Animals in Education: A Response to the “Animal Turn” in Education for Sustainable Development

Journal article
Authors Helena Pedersen
Published in Education Sciences
Volume 9
Issue 3
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Pedagogical, Curricular and Professional Studies
Language en
Keywords education for sustainable development; animals; posthumanism; anthropocentrism; more-than-human; critical animal pedagogies
Subject categories Pedagogy, Pedagogical Work, Didactics, Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified


The so-called “animal turn”, having been on the agenda for around 15 years in the humanities and social sciences, is gaining force also in the educational sciences, typically with an orientation toward posthumanist ontologies. One particular space where educational “more-than-human” relations are debated is the field of education for sustainable development (ESD). This paper responds to two recent contributions to this debate, both positioned within ESD frameworks. The purpose of this response is two-fold: First, to give a critical account of the knowledge claims of the two articles, their overlaps and divergences, as well as their implications for pedagogical practice and their potential consequences for the position of animals in education and in society at large. The meaning and usefulness of analytic tools such as “critical pluralism” and “immanent critique” in relation to animals in education is discussed, as well as whose realities are represented in ESD, revealing contested spaces of teaching and learning manifested through an “enlightened distance” to anthropocentrism in-between compliance and change. The second purpose is to sketch a foundation of reflective practice for critical animal pedagogies, offering a critical theory-based form of resistance against recent posthumanist configurations of the “animal question” in education and beyond.

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