Ecological consciousness and the limits of the Academy: a case study approach to ecohealth training and research
thesisposted on 24.05.2021, 18:38 by Mathieu Feagan
This dissertation explores the concept of ecological consciousness through a case study approach examining recent attempts to use graduate training and research to better address issues of ecological sustainability and human health. Since the 1970s, there has been a growing number of graduate training programs designed to equip a new generation of graduates with the kind of awareness necessary to address the global ecological crisis. Despite these efforts, the crisis on the whole continues to worsen. Although scholars have pointed to the challenges that ecological consciousness poses for graduate training and research, few studies have examined these challenges from the point of view of graduate students themselves. To better understand the opportunities and constraints of graduate training and research, this dissertation uses the framework of ecological consciousness to analyze the experiences of an international group of twenty-six graduate students and professionals trained in ecosystem approaches to human health (ecohealth) in Canada, West and Central Africa, and Central America. Drawing on systems thinking, Indigenous knowledges, and historical materialism, I argue that ecological consciousness means using different ways of knowing to challenge the disciplining tendency of academic knowledge production and open space for a wider ecology of knowledge to develop and express itself. Methodologically, this project is informed by institutional ethnography, building on the diverse experiences and insights of interviewees to make sense of the layered contextual frames of the university, the state, and international development research projects. Despite an orientation toward transformative practices, interviewee experiences reveal strong pressures to fit within top-down, disciplinary processes already governing the administration of training and research, thereby limiting the possibilities for ecological consciousness. I conclude by offering certain theoretical possibilities for how ecological consciousness can support collective action upon the disciplinary employment structures, which graduate students and professionals have a key role in transforming.