Pedagogies of Attending and Mourning

Posthumanism, Death, and Affirmative Ethics


  • Adrian M. Downey Mount Saint Vincent University


In a 1992 chapter, “Cries and Whispers,” William Pinar called for conversations around death to become normative in education, but that call has largely been ignored in curriculum theory. Drawing on Rosi Braidotti’s critical posthumanism, this article engages death as a site of curriculum inquiry. The author begins by discussing the fragility of human life and the necessity of death to the ecological world and highlighting the interconnections between Western death-denying culture and the Anthropocene. The author then discusses the material facts of death (the corpse) in conversation with posthumanism, ultimately suggesting an emergent environmental ethic—attending to waste. The notion of attending is then presented and elaborated as a form of pedagogy through its close relationship to the concept of mourning. The author concludes by suggesting attending as an affirmative sort of pedagogy that denies the binaries of negativity and positivity through a discussion of Rosi Braidotti’s affirmative ethics.