Research Challenge 6

Reimagining Sustainability

While the other five topics for the ColLaboratoire research residency focus on specific issues related to sustainable development, Topic 6 serves as a kind of "meta-topic" in which Fellows and Mentors will explore new and potentially radical ways of framing sustainable development research on a fundamental level.

Different definitions of sustainability have been offered, and many of these emphasize the idea of development without compromising the needs of future generations. We start from the premise that like all conversations, the one around sustainability is a product of its time. To what extent are the UN Sustainable Development Goals shaped by current dominant ideologies, and how have ideology and language historically shaped the way people have thought and talked about sustainability? What happens when we consider the related notions of deep time, deep history, deep future, and geological thinking in our understanding of the problem? To what extent do current definitions of sustainability promote an endless perpetuation of life as we know it? What happens when we look at provocative or radical ideas surrounding sustainability to build a reconceptualization of it that pushes the boundaries (such as Angelo Vermeulen's notion of “molecular sustainability”)?

Because sustainability is generally predicated on concern for multi-generational well-being, how might we bridge the gaps in priorities across populations and sectors, given that the most marginalized sectors--who comprise the majority of the world--are often concerned with pressing concerns of daily survival? To what extent can we leverage popular activities (such as digital and mobile games and esports) and arts-based practices as potential research tools or interventions, in order to develop critical perspectives and interventions on sustainability?

In this project you will explore and learn to

  • Compare and classify current perspectives on sustainability from the academic and grey literature
  • Conduct ethnographic research in the community to understand local perspectives on sustainability and sustainable development
  • Identify and critically review primary and secondary sources that relate to historical concepts around sustainability
  • Consider and debate radical and provocative ideas that may shift conversations around sustainability
  • Construct a proposal for sustainability and sustainable development that involves a conceptual framework, a normative stance, and interventional/policy action plan

Skills, disciplines, and perspectives welcome include (but are not limited to) the following

Game design, visual arts, art studies, literature, history, anthropology, social work, development studies, indigenous knowledge, psychology, philosophy, science and technology studies, policy-making, data science, engineering, space science, science fiction, speculative design

Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

Primary Facilitators and Mentors

Other facilitators and mentors may also contribute to this project