Cuenca, a city in the middle of the Ecuadorean Andes, is a place with a complex history that now embodies this past with very specific local aesthetic, political, cultural and social presences. As Fikile Nxumalo (2016) reminds us, place is not a physical backdrop to human activity; rather it is an active “‘gathering’ of human and more-than-human bodies and stories that require attention beyond the individual child’s experiences” (p. 644). In this way, we view Cuenca as a place that is not only composed of pure or ‘natural’ elements, nor is it made of a collection of paralleling, self-contained parts. Cuenca is porous, leaky and fundamentally contingent upon what Anna Tsing (2015) calls ‘contaminated diversity’, whereby cross-boundary pollution, both materially and discursively, transforms this place in new, often uneasy directions.
Working with common worlds conceptual framings, our research is foregrounded on a commitment to decenter the human as the sole focus of inquiry and to situate our lives within shared, yet unequal common worlds (Latour, 2004). The notion of common worlds in early childhood education is an inclusive, more-than-human notion that challenges the child at the centre of pedagogy (Taylor, 2013). It also brings a critical interruption to the ‘human’ as a colonial epistemic projection underpinned by white, heterosexual masculinity and legitimized only via Western knowledge-making processes.