Panel 9: Feral Knowledge and Education

Disintegrating business
Kate Rich
University of the West of England

Feral education for wild humans
Prof. Kathleen Smythe
Director, Land, Farming and Community degree
Xavier University, Cincinnati

Back to nature: Feral animals in the history of the Life Sciences
Dr. Abraham H. Gibson
Center for Biology & Society
Arizona State University

Comments 3

  1. Dear all,

    Kia ora, and welcome to the 2nd week of PERC’s Feral conference!

    I’m Tony Carusi, and I will be chairing our session on Feral Knowledge and Education this week. Many thanks for the contributions from Kate, Kathleen, and Abraham.

    I’m looking forward to viewing the presentations and the discussions they provoke for us. I’ll get going with some questions and comments of my own later today.

    Nga mihi,

  2. Dear all,

    Thank you to the presenters for a series of intriguing engagements with the notion of the feral. Across the presentations I think we see some very different interests and contexts informing what the feral is, which has me wondering, in line with the theme of our panel, what is the feral as a way of knowing. Or from a different angle, given such different definitions of the feral, how do we know the feral?

    In Kate’s presentation, the pigeon stands as an example of the feral, an undomesticated animal that flourishes in the cities humans have built. I’m quite partial to this example because the pigeon represents a liminality between language and nuisance whereby this is a bird that can carry messages between remote people as well as carry disease (not to mention their tendency to shit on everything!). In Kathleen’s presentation, we see feral as a kind of education that follows four principles designed to bring students into contact with their surroundings as well as one another. Here the feral represents something much less ambiguous in the sense that feral education is critical of the urban(e) and mentally focused forms of education that divorce achievement from enjoyment. The positive side of the feral would see students involved in embodied and passionate relations with one another and one’s surroundings. Finally, in Abraham’s presentation we have a very precise definition of the feral from the outset: an animal who was once domesticated, or had domesticated ancestors, but now lives in the wild. On this definition, it becomes difficult to know the pigeon, once domesticated but living in the city, or the student, embodied and passionately related, as feral.

    With these three very different ideas of the feral at work within a panel on feral knowledge and education, what would it mean, or does it even make sense, to describe knowledge as feral? As Abraham’s presentation shows us, the feral has been present across centuries of science with different ways of knowing what it is. Only recently has it come to evoke notions of pestilence. Yet Kathleen urges us to think the feral as a positive counter to the mental abstractions that inform education. Rather than pestilence, here the feral offers promise. And Kate tends more toward a notion of ferality that is experimental, indeterminate, and more ambivalent through its openness to contingency and happenstance. Are these three separate notions of feral knowledge designed to talk past one another, or is there something performative about the notion of the feral that this panel illustrates by initiating a de-domestication of knowledge across science, art, business, and education? I’m not entirely sure, perhaps another consequence of the feral, and would be interested in hearing from you whether you see these notions of the feral working at odds with and/or in collaboration with one another toward something we might call a feral epistemology.

    Also, be sure to drop in on the other panels we have going this week. I’m also moderating the Feral Biopolitics panel, and I see a lot of overlap in terms of grappling with how the feral situates those who are identified as such.

    Looking forward to hearing from you and others!


    1. Feral epistemology and de-domestication, yes! Just what I’ve been discussing in my emergent feralosophy over in the Feral Art panel. I’ll add more comments later but just wanted to say, yes, where feral pertains to knowledge practices, this de-domestication is a key point.

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