Performative abstractionism in environmental education: a critical theory of theory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The Journal of Environmental Education (JEE) has produced and circulated different forms of knowledge for 50years, mostly for a North American readership and, most recently, a globally-extended English-speaking audience. A critical theory of theory in environmental education (EE) and its research (EER) is needed in looking ‘back,’ ‘now’, and ‘forward.’ This critical theory will reexamine the field’s knowledge assumptions, presuppositions, and ‘post’ forms of intellectual representation and academic exchange so as to reveal the underlying logics, mediations, constructions, characteristics, and commitments within a post-Anthropocene aspiration. The critical theorization of performative abstractionism in EER uses various histories of theory that parallel the JEE’s 50years. The early 1990s is found to be a crucial turning point in the critical/praxical approach of EE. Seventeen characteristics of intellectual work and its exchange in postmodern knowledge productions are identified into which the performative abstractionism of allegedly ‘new’ theory fit. This historically attuned critical theory concludes reconstructively with the outline of a framing of praxis in the generalized form of a stratified and de-centring approach to the ‘politics of inquiry.’ The eco-ethico-political aim of this ‘post foundational’ approach to inquiry is to reverse the geographically reduced global accelerations, intensifications, and individualizations of abstractionism in EER. A ‘practices theorizing’ imperative is to re’turn’ EER to the ecological ontologies of rematerialized, everyday practices of (environmentally or/and ecologically) ethical value, political concern, and esthetic sensibility needed to ensure the field’s criticality, relevance, credibility, and sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-320
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Environmental Education
Issue number4-6
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • axiological interest
  • critical ecological ontology
  • critical praxis
  • decentering
  • digitalization/platforming
  • embodied materialism
  • epistemological abstraction
  • methodological holism
  • ontological realism
  • Performative abstractionism
  • theories <gap> practices problem

Cite this