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Can educators and researchers rethink what theory does in public education so as not to repeat colonial theories and policies predicated on mis/conceptions of “terra nullius” and “terra incognita”? My initial concern as a teacher and administrator working in Northern Territory for over two decades, was the question: “What theories underpin public education policy directives and implementation plans?” Recently my focus has shifted to include what theory is and what it is doing in shaping whose lives (human and non-human) matter. The shift occurred because many theories appeared to perpetuate “more of the same” outcomes, specifically for Indigenous students and their communities. The shifts from what theory is to what theory is doing in the world occur through the daily rhythms – as a precedent of Arrernte practices – of walking Country. Through quotidian acts of walking, I begin to understand that theory is the inseparability of being, doing and thinking, what Barad’s agential realism calls “ethico-onto-epistem-ology”. To show how walking of country is doing theory, I diffractively read several texts (including the non-English and poetic). This gives a sense of what theory is doing in and of the specific matters it inhabits: Arrernte Country, colonisation, education policy directives, walking and creative expression. Theory is taken up through the ethics of those lives rendered un/thinkable, in/visible in public education in Mparntwe (Alice Springs). A diffractive approach in this context opens theory up, to express thinking differently with the commitment to unsettle education policy as a continued reflection of ongoing colonisation.
Cowan, W., Undoing Theory: Walking of Arrernte Country – Co-creating Knowledge and Meaning in Central Australia (2022). Charles Darwin University, accessed 25/02/2024, https://digitalcollections.cdu.edu.au/nodes/view/5038