Jean KayiraCore Faculty
Department of Environmental Studies
AUNE Contact Information
Highest DegreePhD (ABD), University of Saskatchewan
Other Degrees & CredentialsMA, Environmental Science and Policy, Clark University
BEd Science, University of Malawi—Chancellor College
Areas of ExpertiseSustainability education, Indigenous knowledge, and postcolonial theory; youth, place, and culture; and participatory forms of education and research.
I have a strong commitment to and passion for socio-ecological justice issues, community-based education, and collaborative inquiry. In engaging with these concerns, my work has focused on education as a sociocultural and critical practice, with an additional focus on epistemological and methodological issues of qualitative research. These foci draw on the practice of anti-oppressive education, social and cultural theory, postcolonial theory, and empirical research which engages directly with educators as well as students.
I have been engaged in a variety of research working with youth and teacher candidates on issues of sustainability, particularly examining Indigenous knowledge and sustainability, youth identity in relation to place and sustainability, and social and ecological justice pedagogies. For example, in my doctoral research, I have explored the possibilities of Indigenous knowledge in furthering student learning in relation to culturally appropriate environmental sustainability. I have drawn on the sub-Saharan African concept of Ubuntu/uMunthu and postcolonial theory to enable a “third space” (Bhabha, 1994) centered on culturally appropriate Malawian ways of knowing, while at the same time, working in tandem with non-Indigenous knowledge and practice. In broad terms, this study sought to widen the space that meaningfully acknowledges both
Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge and practice. The study employed aspects of participatory research (with youth) and Indigenous research methodologies.
I have also worked on a community-based action research project with youth (Aboriginal, new immigrant, and settler) to develop their digital media skills and through the process learn about their perspectives on place and the environmental sustainability issues important to them (http://www.seri.usask.ca/research/digital-media-project.php). Additionally, I have worked on a participatory research project studying beginning teachers’ experiences of learning to teach for social and ecological justice.
uMunthu entails humaneness, care, understanding, and empathy. It is grounded in the interconnectedness of beings, values the contributions of others, and emphasizes reciprocity and responsibility (Musopole, 1994; Sindima, 1990, 1995; Tutu, 1999). While in the West human identity tends to lie in the rationalistic and individualistic approach as captured in the Cartesian mantra: “I think, therefore I am”; uMunthu asserts, “I am because we are, and because we are, therefore, I am” (Mbiti, 1969, p. 108).