Black Space Imaginaries in Environmental Education for Young Children

Black Space Imaginaries in Environmental Education for Young Children

Presented by Fikile Nxumalo

There is a gap, in both scholarly and pedagogical attention to Black childhoods in the field of environmental early childhood education in North America. The specificities of Black childhoods and Black geographies in environmental education are largely marked by absence and deficit salvation discourses. In response, the purpose of this paper is to articulate Black childhood futurities through creative imaginaries of Black space in environmental education. In imagining possibilities for Black space in environmental education, I begin with the premise that the education of young Black children in North America needs to be situated within the context of the afterlife of segregation (ross, in press). Drawing from Hartman’s (2007) concept of the afterlife of slavery and its ongoing subjugations, the afterlife of school segregation as a framework, centers the ways in which despite the end of legal segregation of schooling, education for Black children remains marked by the impossibility of Black childhoods and manifests in the form of dehumanization, surveillance, deficit perspectives, punitive discipline and more (Dumas & ross, 2016). Black space, then, is a mode of envisioning educational futurities that respond to the realities of antiblackness in the afterlife of segregation but are also situated within educational desire (Tuck, 2010) that imagines otherwise possibilities; including possibilities that refuse the erasure of complex relationships between Black people and the natural environment. In this paper I begin to craft pedagogical futurities for young Black children that subvert racialized discourses such as those that dwell in nostalgia for a return to idyllic childhoods in ‘pure, romantic nature’ (Taylor, 2017). I turn in particular to the generative possibilities offered by speculative fiction for envisioning more hopeful Black educational futurities while simultaneously making visible the unevenly distributed unlivability of the Anthropocene.
Fikile Nxumalo is an assistant professor in the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin, where she is also affiliated faculty with African and African Diaspora Studies, and Native American and Indigenous Studies. Fikile’s research and pedagogical interests are centered on environmental and place-attuned early childhood studies that are situated within and responsive to uneven anthropogenic and settler colonial inheritances.
This scholarship, which is published in journals including Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Children’s Geographies and Environmental Humanities, is rooted in perspectives from Indigenous knowledges, Black feminist geographies, and posthumanist theories. Drawing from her experience as a pedagogista in early learning settings, Fikile is also interested in participatory and action-oriented approaches for supporting in-service early childhood educators in engaging social and environmental justice oriented pedagogies. She can be reached at

Date: 16 May 2018
Time: 16h00 – 17h30



Wed, 16 May 2018 -
16:00 to 17:30

 HUMA, 4th Floor, Neville Alexander Building, UCT

Contact Information: 

Professor Karin Murris
021 650 2835