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The Agential Kinships of Life, Death, and Play at Tallen Förskola

Sat, April 29, 2:45 to 4:15pm, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Floor: Meeting Room Level, Room 221 C


This poster presentation culls together and draws on a variety of qualitative field texts (e.g. field notes, photographs, video recordings) that were collected during the summer of 2016 at a small preschool in the countryside of central Sweden. The preschool, which will hereto forward be referred to as Tallen Förskola, is a Swedish pseduonym that translates to mean pine trees (tallen) and preschool (förskola), and is intended to reflect both the surrounding landscape and it’s significance to the children’s playing, thinking, and being.

Guiding this project of inquiry is a series of questions: What are posthuman literacies? How do they come to matter? And what implications do they make possible –ethical or otherwise? Informed by feminist materialisms (Alaimo & Hekman, 2008) and new materialist theories, more generally (Barad, 2003, 2007; Bennett, 2001, 2010a, 2010b; Coole & Frost, 2010), as well as existing and more recent perspectives on material ecocriticism (Iovino, 2012; Iovino & Opperman, 2012a, 2012b; Oppermann, 2010; Pickering, 1993; Sullivan, 2012), this poster presentation attends to an event that occurred on the playground of Tallen Förskola, in which the untimely death of a small bird became a “site of narrativity, a storied matter” (Iovino, 2012, p. 58) that materialized in new and different ways over the course of two days.

Essential to this event and, in particular, to the implications advanced by material ecocriticism, is the notion that matter is not only that which is interpreted on the basis of its existence in texts, but also that matter exists as a text (Iovino, 2012). Given the countless material configurations that children’s play both produces and is contingent to, this idea is significant, specifically because it posits the possibility that “everything is … alive” (Bennett, 2010, p. 117), which in turn amplifies the “narrative potentialities” (Iovino, 2012, p. 58) that come to matter. The bird’s untimely death, though certainly disenchanting, provided as well an occasion for the children and teachers of Tallen Förskola to encounter, linger on, and recognize in play the agential kinships of life and death, and the complex ways that posthuman-tales come to offer new literacies for creative, moral, and social hope.