Working with a pan-ethnographic methodology to explore human/soil intra-actions and the practice of a response-able pedagogy in three Manchester primary schools.

  • Rebecca Lock

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis explores 'Save Our Soils', an environmental education programme devised and facilitated by a small charity, the Manchester Environmental Education Network (MEEN). Given the impoverished, and on occasion contaminated, state of urban soils this study examines the differences the programme made to human/soil intra-actions in three Manchester primary schools. The interdisciplinarity of the research required a methodology that could enfold different ways of being and knowing and Barad's philosophy of agential realism achieves this by being inclusive of the scientific and the social, the material and the discursive, and the a/biotic. By working with core principles from agential realism, including ethicality, inclusivity, historicity and the agency of all matter, the notion of the multi-species ethnography was reconfigured into a pan-ethnography. This led to the emergence of a specific form of research analysis which works with both constructive and deconstructive techniques and is called a de/constructive analysis. The thesis gives an account of the intra-actions between soils and pupils showing how, in specific instances, pupils relations with what they considered to be 'dirt' were reconfigured into soil as a habitat, as a valuable resource and as living matter. It explores how the practice of a processual, democratic and open-ended 'response-able pedagogy' was able to make a difference that mattered to human/soil intra-actions. It also highlights activities which left an impression on the pupils including working in a science laboratory, discovering microscopic creatures and exercising the imagination to understand the lives of others. Through attending to boundaries of in/ex-clusion, to the marks left on bodies and by querying matters of agency and constraint, the research raises questions about who is response-able for improving human/soil intra-actions and queries how the material-discourse of land management in schools needs to be reconfigured.
Date of Award1 Aug 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorSusan Brown (Supervisor)


  • Environmental education
  • soil
  • response-able pedagogy
  • pan-ethnography

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