Slow living; “‘the times’ are ripe for a serious consideration of slowness”

I’m interested in what Wendy Parkins and Geoffrey Craig have to say about slowness (I’ve read one of their articles and it as great). I think it has particular relevance to early childhood education….

Introducing their book, Slow Living, Parkins and Craig declare that they believe “‘the times’ are ripe for a serious consideration of slowness” (pix).

Slow living is not a return to the past, the good old days (pre-McDonalds Arcadia), neither is it a form of laziness, nor a slow-motion version of life, nor possible only in romantic locations like Tuscany. Rather, for us, slow living is a process whereby everyday life – in all its pace and complexity, frisson and routine – is approached with care and attention, as subjects attempt to live in the present in a meaningful, sustainable, thoughtful and pleasurable way. Slow living may be particularly evident in certain kinds of practices in everyday life – like walking or cooking, although neither of these are necessarily always done slowly – but it may also be generalized to a wider approach to life. Those who advocate slow practices often suggest that one slow habit leads to another; slowness becomes a preferred mode for the heightened awareness or relaxation it can impart.” (p.ix)

“One of the primary attractions of the Sow Food movement emanates from its articulation of the contexts of everyday life with the global food system. ” (p.x)

“The very idea of slow living is provocative. A faster pace of existence, and an increasing busy-ness’ in the time we have, is a central feature of global culture. While debate continues over whether overall work hours have increased or not in recent decades, complicated by factors such as profession, class and gender…, perceptions of acceleration in daily life are common.” (p.1)

As speed is seemingly equated with efficiency and professionalism, however, slowness can become a way of signalling an alternative set of values or a refusal to privilege the workplace over other domains of life. To declare the value of slowness in our work, in our personal life, in public life, is to promote a position counter to the dominant value-system of ‘the times’.” (p.1)

“…slow living is a relative concept that represents a response to the contexts of flux and speed that characterize much contemporary existence and which people negotiate in a variety of ways through the attribution of a positive value to certain kinds and uses of time….” (p.2)

“A fundamental concern in slow living is time. At its heart, slow living is a conscious attempt to change the current temporal order to one which offers more time, time to attend to everyday life.” (p.3)

Introducing this book, the authors declare their intention to “outline why everyday life has taken on a new importance, both in public discourse and social practice, [going on to state:] and we will then situate our understanding of the political and ethical possibilities of everyday life in relation to concepts such as ‘life politics’, ‘micropolitics’ and ‘enchanted modernity’ in order to foreground how slow living may constitute an oppositional mode within contemporary global culture and everyday life – or what we call the global everyday.” (p.2) So that’s what the book has to offer… and I know it’s relevant to ‘working’ with children (I think Magda Gerber, for instance)… I just need to read it and work out what else to make notes on.

The global everyday

“This new focus on everyday life and its complex relation to global culture – the global everyday – requires a new consideration of the intersubjective and political domains.” (p.12)

“The appeal of a social movement such as Slow Food or the resurgence of farmers’ markets derive partly from an appreciation of the knowledges, customs, tastes and pleasures of previous times, and a desire for their continued currency. Such ‘rediscoveries’ of traditions – or their selective deployment – become part of the plurality of life options that are available to individuals in constructing their own life narratives and negotiating their own risks. While such practices are often seen as nostalgic escapes from the exigencies of the present, we will argue in subsequent chapters that the reclamation of tradition may also form part of a sustained engagement with contemporary problems of everyday life and constitute revitalized networks of community and exchange in the present.” (p.8)

“In our study of slow living we will explore some of the ways in which these new forms of being-in-the-world, or new ethics of living, are shaped from the everyday, from its messiness and fragility. If the unpredictability of daily life leads to the possibility for creative and reflexive negotiations, then there are also utopian possibilities within the everyday, in the sense of ‘a longing for a different, and better way of living, a reconciliation of thought and life, desire and the real, in a manner that critiques the status quo without projecting a full-blown image of what a future society should look like’ [quoting Gardiner]” (p.8) …Now that sounds relevant to education, right?!

Contemporary forms and practices of slow living arise from, and in response to, processes of globalization, we would argue, not simply the immediate pressures of daily life. Practices and organizations associated with slowness, such as Slow Food, moreover, are also often identified with an opposition to globalization, variously understood, so we need to explore some of the aspects of globalization that are implicated with slow living. Our argument is not simply that the complexity of globalization produces the dislocations and dissonances that make slow living seem an appealing alternative but that forms of slow living necessarily emerge from the very particular character of global culture. The complexity of globalization derives from the fact that it is not a singular, monolithic force but a multifaceted phenomenon – manifested in the economy, technology, politics, media and culture. Although by definition globalization has pervasive effects around the world, it is more often than not an uneven process, building on already existing inequalities and opportunities. The term ‘global culture’ may suggest an integrated global order but it is better understood as ‘a complex, overlapping, disjunctive order’ [citing Appadurai].” (p.9)

“The global everyday is now both a mundane reality and a site where the process of living is less self-evident, subject to disturbing new challenges and open to liberatory potentials. The adoption of practices of slow living by the self-reflexive cosmopolitan subject is one of the ways in which this transformation of locality takes place, as the mundane is reinvested with significance through the enhanced awareness that cultural difference and detraditionalization makes possible. One example of this transformation of locality would be the resurgence and growing popularity of farmers’ markets in countries such as the UK and Australia. People meet and buy from local producers at an informal weekly market, preferring both the social experience and quality of produce that such markets may afford, while at the same time eschewing the impersonal approach to shopping available in the supermarket. The farmers’ market signals a renewed valuing of the local by subjects aware of, and responding to, the global flows of agriculture. Such negotiation of difference within the glocal has become, then, part of the fabric of everyday life – what could be more mundane than grocery shopping? – but at the same time has also become an opportunity for sociality and constructing community. In this sense, the cosmopolitan subject in global culture, while obviously connected to forms of cultural openness, is defined here less through ‘manic mobility or hedonism’, and more though the ‘necessary emotional work of everyday life’.” (p.12)

Ref: (italics in original, emphases in blue bold mine) Wendy Parkins and Geoffrey Craig (2006) Slow Living.  Berg: Oxford, New York.


About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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