“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
— Arundhati Roy
Toward A Methodology & A Research Proposal
As I move forward in the PhD program I find myself coming full circle in various ways. I have always admired Leonardo da Vinci and his love of nature and science, but also his abilities as a great artist. This inter-disciplinary approach has always made sense to me as I have moved back and forth amongst science, the arts and then the social sciences.
I chose the University of King’s College for my first degree because of their journalism program, but then I fell in love with their Foundation Year Program (FYP) that was worth 4 of 5 credits for the first year and covered the history of Western civilization (as it was seen in the late 80’s and early 90’s) in a unique inter-disciplinary way that continued to foster and feed my love of science, the arts and the ‘humanities.’ This program focused on how everything is inter-connected; science, philosophy, the arts, history and more. I think the program had a powerful effect on me and continues to do so today. I also got to explore courses at Dalhousie University (as part of my journalism program) in philosophy such as the Philosophy of Psychology, How to Win an Argument, and Man and Nature.
I think this inter-disciplinary approach to ideas and a strong sense of service from my parents has also fed my interest in community and society, and an interest in newer areas of theory and philosophy that move beyond the typical dualistic, and even 'rational,' approaches to academic research and learning. It has been through this program that I have learned about a much broader variety of theoretical approaches (methodologies) beyond just the theory of adult education, and how newer areas of indigenous, afri-centric, feminist, and other areas of critical theory have been influencing, even replacing, more traditional schools of thought. I've recently learned there is even a new approach to research now called 'post-qualitative.'
I have also developed a strong appreciation for ‘bricolage’ and the idea of how everything builds in layers on what has gone before. This includes how posthumanist thought from Braidotti and others has built on the work of Deleuze and Spinoza. Also, how the work of Barad (a physicist as well as a philosopher) builds on the work of many who look to understand the world in its entirety beyond more ‘mechanical’ approaches. The sense of entanglement and immanence that comes from these newer schools of thought also feed an interest in me in looking at the world in a more holistic way, and recognizing a variety of ways of being and knowing that build on indigenous philosophies and others who have been ignored or marginalized throughout the more dominant capitalistic, neoliberal and colonial ontologies, axiologies, epistemologies and methodologies of research and learning.
I believe strongly in an academic learning that reaches beyond the realms of gatekeeping and is active in community. I believe transparency in such work whether educational or research oriented is critical. I think it's important to find new ways to be together, in community and society, including ways of being based on reflection, dialogue, ‘healthy, constructive conflict,’ and respectful debate of ideas while also recognizing the harm ideas of the past have done and continue to do (ie. colonization).
I accept myself more as an 'activist,' but I also see the necessity to be constantly learning, reflecting on, and thinking critically about new ideas. Braidotti’s idea of ‘affirmative ethics’ and Barad’s (post) qualitative approaches resonate very strongly with me. I’m also excited to enjoy access to talks and other ways of learning online (ie. YouTube) related to these ideas and the people who are leading the way into new areas of thought and re/visiting ‘old’ ways of thinking as well.
Going forward, I’m hoping to learn more about all of these ideas and about how meditative inquiry as an approach to learning and curriculum could be applied to enhance research and ‘practice’ in the fields of community development and social movement learning. I also want to continue to explore the nature of adult education in these areas, and the idea that we are all always learning, both ‘teachers’ and ‘students.’
I think my earlier exposure to some ideas in ‘social innovation’ have also helped to prepare me for a high level of comfort with chaos and emergence that others may not be so comfortable with. Earlier in my life, I was able to participate in a program developed by both the Shambhala Institute and the United Way of Halifax that explored ideas like 'chaordic design,' and ways of facilitating using methods like Open Space and the Art of Hosting. I learned more about facilitating in community when I volunteered to lead a committee to develop a community vision for Musquodoboit Harbour.
My own life has also been one of constant ‘chaos and emergence’ as I have struggled to live with mental illness, exclusion from the mainstream ‘economy,’ figuring out ways I could to contribute to and support my family, and finding ways to serve my ‘community;’ which has grown from Musquodoboit Harbour, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to the Atlantic region of Canada, to Canada itself and the world. More and more I am looking at the value and importance of organizations such as the International Association for Community Development (IACD) and the standards they’ve recently developed for work in the field of community development, and the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) which was started as a collaboration of progressive countries such as Finland, Scotland and New Zealand (all led by women).
For me, the answers to the fundamental question of how we move forward in an ‘affirmative’ and ‘joyful’ way that recognizes the inter-connection and inter-relationship of everything (the natural world, beings such as ourselves and others, and the cosmos) seems very important to me. I see the work of Dr. Kumar and many of his mentors as also a critical part of this including their work around autoethnography and 'currere.'
I think it is the existential, philosophical and fundamentally 'human' and holistic nature of Dr. Kumar's work that appeals to me. I also see meditative inquiry as an approach to learning that is inter-relational and about the inter-connectedness of human beings with the world at large. I feel similar connections when I think about Braidotti's work around posthumanism and 'affirmative ethics' as well as Barad's point of view as a physicist looking literally at the nature of existence. I am very intrigued how one of the most 'mathematical' and quantitative sciences can relate as well to the social sciences, and how the two can inform - and even transcend - each other.
Beyond this is the growing recognition and inclusion of non-western and non-eurocentric ways of looking at the world. The value of these perspectives for philosophy, education, research and academia beyond where we are now cannot, I think, be under-estimated. They are critical to how we can move forward as just one of many beings on this planet, and to re-discovering the most ancient and connected part of ourselves.
It is in this growing sense of 'entanglement' of 'Everything, Everywhere All At Once' (film that came out recently), to my love of all things 'Star Trek' (especially how various series have evolved over time to continue to advocate for inclusion, and always with some moral question at the heart of their stories), to Dan Brown's book, Origins, about the interaction between religion and science that was inspired by a modern symphony created by his brother.
In this, art continues to remind me that 'truth' can be manifested in many different ways. We are not creatures of any one way of thinking, of being or of knowing. We are many, and it is in the plurality of those ways, that we can find great strength. As I continue in this program, I think this is the greatest learning so far but I look forward to continuing to explore, to grow and to learn.
Image Sources (top to bottom): University of King's College, Wix Photo Library, Wix Photo Library, Quotes.pub, Indigo Website, Krishnamurti - Almay Licensed Photo from Booktopia Website (https://www.booktopia.com.au/curriculum-as-meditative-inquiry-ashwani-kumar/book/9781137320544.html), Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau, Wix Photo Library, Wix Photo Library, Wix Photo Library.
PhD Bulletin Board Evolution
PhD Bulletin Board
March 13th, 2023
In the spirit of Moving Forward, I'm also going to share here a few images of how I have used a bulletin board to help me think through different ideas for research for my PhD, and now the Mitacs research project I'm doing over the next 3 years, in a non-linear way.
You can see by clicking on arrows how this bulletin board has evolved, which has been quite dramatic since when I started my PhD.