This article provides an overview of the ethical and educational functions of storytelling in fishing and hunting practices and pedagogies. I explore various psychological, anthropological, and ethical theories surrounding storytelling as a way of encouraging deeper, more robust engagement among humans, nonhuman animals, and myriad beings that exist alongside of us in our multispecies communities. Drawing on animal studies, narrative theory, and critical pedagogy as well as ongoing qualitative research, I offer potential ways of incorporating a wider “ecology of stories” into situated hunting and fishing practices to engage more ethically with the people and beings that dwell in a given place.
Russell, J. 2020. Telling better stories: Toward critical, place-based, and multispecies narrative pedagogies in hunting and fishing cultures. Journal of Environmental Education, 51(3): 232–245. doi:10.1080/00958964.2019.1641064.
Relevancy to curriculum
This source presents a brief overview of the ethical and educational functions of storytelling in North American hunting and fishing cultures. The author proposes critical, situated, and historically attentive multispecies narratives as a way of encouraging deeper, more robust engagement between humans, nonhuman animals, and myriad living beings that dwell in our multispecies communities. The author interviews children and teenagers who engage in hunting and/or fishing practices. These children have all been white, middle-class, suburban, and rural Americans.
We are Homo narratus, storytelling beings, and narratives serve multiple functions in our worlds.
Others influence our recollections and our interpretations of past events as we incorporate them into our personal life story, and so narrative is always a shared, intersubjective.
In cultural mythologies and historical narratives, children come to learn about and participate in social and ecological communities that have a past, present, and future. Sharing stories together, whether real or fictional, can lead to familial and social bonding, as well as linguistic development. In conclusion, narratives of all kinds can direct children to think about the world categorically and ethically, providing exposure to cultural values through emotional and descriptive language.
Despite the difficulties, the skills learned in articulating one’s position on moral decision-making, in a supportive yet critical environment, can help clarify one’s values and actions. The effect of ethically engaging with stories can impact not only individuals but also entire communities.
We do well to offer pedagogical connections and opportunities to learn about and engage with Indigenous ontologies and epistemologies of kinship as part of a critical narrative pedagogy of place (Cheney, 2002).
These suggestions are meant as critical narrative potentialities that might counter particular hegemonic, placeless, and often overly generalized approaches to hunting and fishing pedagogies that I have encountered in online curricula, popular media, and elsewhere.
Multispecies narrativity might entail learning about natural history, creatively imagining the personal history of an individual creature, and/or considering the various human and nonhuman narratives that have shaped the landscape itself.
What opportunities do stories provide for children, adolescents, or adult learners in learning about, thinking about, or engaging with the more-than-human world from a moral point of view?
How can educators assist in developing narrative impulse in ways that promote storytelling ability and deepen the impact of shared narratives for the shared benefit of multispecies communities?
How might this play out in education? One common suggestion is to provide children and all students the opportunities to craft and share their moral experiences in narrative forms to reflect on and articulate their own moral perspectives.
links to ssf guidelines chapters
- 6. Social Development, Employment & Decent Work, 11. Information, Research & Communication