Cultures of Sustainability

Cultures of Sustainability

The unit of Cultures of Sustainability seeks to critically reflect on and reframe knowledge creation for sustainability transformation, with a special focus on the role of the humanities and their fundamental questions about values and knowledge production. It questions: Can science move from calling for change to enabling transformative change and which are “better” ways to produce knowledge for sustainability transformation? To this end, the unit of Cultures of Sustainability acknowledges and focuses on three main research and teaching directions:

  • The plurality of sustainability conceptualizations, visions, and pathways. There is no one “sustainability”, but a diversity of cultures and narratives of sustainability. Inclusivity towards these is key for a just future, while remaining aware of certain problematic understandings of sustainability especially prominent in the corporate sector.

  • The inner dimensions of sustainability (transformations). Sustainability and transformation research has predominantly focused on external dimensions of reality such as economic systems, biophysical parameters, technofixes or behavioral metrics. Inner dimensions of reality such as deeply held values, worldviews and cultures have been most often left outside the discourse on how to reach a sustainable future. The humanities and the arts are best placed to contemplate, investigate, and engage with inner dimensions of sustainability.

  • The distinction between descriptive-analytical sustainability research and transformative sustainability research. An overwhelming part of sustainability research has been dedicated to a better knowledge and understanding of sustainability problems and potential solutions. Transformative sustainability research seeks to couple this knowledge production with co-creating desirable change. In this endeavor, Universities are proactive and societally engaged actors which directly shape not only the knowledge about sustainability transformation, but the actual social transformation processes towards sustainability. As one of the core four professorships of the Kassel Institute for Sustainability, Cultures of Sustainability promotes transformative sustainability science as one of the Institute’s research modes.

The unit of Cultures of Sustainability positions itself at interfaces. It has experience with and continues to do boundary work at the interface between science and society and knowledge and action (transdisciplinary sustainability science), at the interface between the social and the ecological (social-ecological systems research), and at the interface between the inner worlds of individuals and their collectives, where values and cultures mediate this interface.