Baskets of offerings: Design, nature, animism, and pedagogy


Summary: This dissertation explores how an animist spirituality redirects design. Design has long been understood as the professional practice of creating artefacts, systems, and communications for modern Western “civilization.” Recently, many scholars have been calling for a redirection of design’s talents and agency towards holistic, ecological and ethical practices. To do this, I argue, designers need to build an understanding and a connection with nature, ecological literacy, a visceral understanding of the Earth, and a spiritual knowing that we are interconnected and inseparable from all beings. I learned much of this during my childhood experiences on a farm, and during my exploration of contemplative practices. Through my journaling and my studies, I found that the spiritual and personal were artificially separated from the professional disciplines. I reunited important parts of myself that had been fragmented or split off during my professional teaching and professional design career. Buddhist mindfulness and meditation practices offer psychophysical learning. Contrary to academic intellectual traditions, these offer a path to understanding animist spirituality within mind, body, and heart. I search for pathways to extend this deep learning through somatic and experiential pedagogies in design. I relate several stories of how my colleagues and I have integrated animist, intersubjective, and contemplative practices into design pedagogy. I look for practices to support the embodied, relational, and experiential forms of exploration that can open opportunities for animist ways of knowing. We become aware, with carnal vitality, of our physical and emotional selves in the process. We come to understand ourselves and our bodies as fully implicated in seeing, reflecting, understanding, and practicing design. Reflections, stories, essays, and journal extracts are sorted into a series of baskets rather than the traditional thesis form of chapters. Meditative practices interweave throughout. This collection of possibilities allows a métissage of ideas rather than a scripted or definitive study.

Personal Notes: Louise is a trailblazer in earth-centered design and paves the way for designers like me to contextualize earth-centered perspectives within the design practice. Her writings are a fantastic bridge that allows for the field of earth-centered design to expand. Her methodologies and pedagogy will allow me to explore the educational part of my work.

Reference: St. Pierre, Louise. Baskets of offerings: Design, nature, animism, and pedagogy. (2020). Simon Fraser University.