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The Transformative Imagination: Re-imagining the world towards sustainability
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre. Stockholm Resilience Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3572-9275
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

A central task for sustainability science in the Anthropocene is to offer guidance on alternative pathways of change. Even though this search and implementation of pathways towards sustainability is likely to require profound social-ecological transformations, little is yet known about the individual and collective capacities needed to support such transformations. This thesis explores the connection between human imagination and sustainability transformations, and introduces the notion of the transformative imagination to support methodological innovation in sustainability sciences, and practices aiming to support transformations towards sustainability. The transformative imagination is suggested to support fundamentally new ways of seeing, feeling, encountering and envisioning the world. The thesis takes a transdisciplinary action-research approach and studies how specific participatory practices, including the arts, may foster the transformative imagination as a means to more skilfully respond to, anticipate and shape social-ecological trajectories in the Anthropocene. The four included papers, each explores how practices may support particular features of the imagination as a transformative capacity. Paper I analyses a case in coastal Kenya where participatory modelling and future scenarios are applied to foster imagination of dynamics of interdependences and trade-offs within the context of poverty alleviation and ecosystems change. Paper II explores system diagrams and scenarios as practices for the development of social-ecological narratives that may support robust interventions in coastal Kenya and Mozambique. Paper III implements, and studies how an art-based approach based on performances, visual methods and an art installation, could support transformative visions of the Iberian Peninsula in the context of extreme climate change. Paper IV is a literature review of the potential contributions of the arts to transformations, in the context of climate change. These papers focus on different features of imagination, which under certain circumstances may progressively develop into societal transformative capacities with the potential to re-structure current social-ecological realities. Overall, this thesis is a step towards forging new kinds of reflexive, imaginative and deliberative practices that can support the emergence of local arrangements of a sustainable world where life can carry on.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University , 2018.
Keywords [en]
ways of knowing, transformations, complexity, futures, practice, transdisciplinarity, creativity, art-based, embodied meaning, action-research, science-policy
National Category
Other Social Sciences
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-152294ISBN: 978-91-7797-137-5 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7797-138-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-152294DiVA, id: diva2:1178816
Public defence
2018-03-15, Vivi Täckholmsalen (Q-Salen), NPQ-Huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Submitted.

Available from: 2018-02-20 Created: 2018-01-30 Last updated: 2018-06-25Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Learning about social-ecological trade-offs
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Learning about social-ecological trade-offs
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2017 (English)In: Ecology & society, ISSN 1708-3087, E-ISSN 1708-3087, Vol. 22, no 1, article id 2Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Trade-offs are manifestations of the complex dynamics in interdependent social-ecological systems. Addressing tradeoffs involves challenges of perception due to the dynamics of interdependence. We outline the challenges associated with addressing trade-offs and analyze knowledge coproduction as a practice that may contribute to tackling trade-offs in social-ecological systems. We discuss this through a case study in coastal Kenya in which an iterative knowledge coproduction process was facilitated to reveal social-ecological trade-offs in the face of ecological and socioeconomic change. Representatives of communities, government, and NGOs attended two integrative workshops in which methods derived from systems thinking, dialogue, participatory modeling, and scenarios were applied to encourage participants to engage and evaluate trade-offs. Based on process observation and interviews with participants and scientists, our analysis suggests that this process lead to increased appreciation of interdependences and the way in which trade-offs emerge from complex dynamics of interdependent factors. The process seemed to provoke a reflection of knowledge assumptions and narratives, and management goals for the social-ecological system. We also discuss how stakeholders link these insights to their practices.

Keywords
complexity thinking, coproduction, knowledge, participatory modeling, scenarios, well-being
National Category
Biological Sciences Social and Economic Geography
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-143849 (URN)10.5751/ES-08920-220102 (DOI)000399397700013 ()
Available from: 2017-06-05 Created: 2017-06-05 Last updated: 2018-01-30Bibliographically approved
2. Stories in social-­ecological knowledge co­-creation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Stories in social-­ecological knowledge co­-creation
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2018 (English)In: Ecology & society, ISSN 1708-3087, E-ISSN 1708-3087, Vol. 23, no 1, article id 23Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Transformations in social-ecological systems to overturn poverty and ecosystem degradation require approaches to knowledge synthesis that are inclusive and open to creative innovation. In this paper we draw on interviews with participants and in-depth process observation of an iterative knowledge co-creation process in Kenya and Mozambique that brought together scientists, community representatives, government representatives and practitioners with expertise or experience of poverty and/or coastal natural resource use and management. We analyze the communicative spaces opened by techniques of system diagrams and future scenarios and provide a rich account of the emergent process of developing a “shared conceptual repertoire” as a basis for effective communication and knowledge synthesis. Our results highlight the difficulties of challenging dominant narratives and the creative potential that exists in reflecting on their underpinning assumptions. In our analysis stories and lived experiences emerged as key means shaping the construction of shared concepts and ideas. We conclude by outlining the implications for designing knowledge co-creation processes that support the task of devising systemic interventions robust to a range of future scenarios. This includes embracing the role of stories in generating shared meanings and opening up spaces for exploration of knowledge assumptions embedded in intervention narratives.

Keywords
action research, coproduction, learning, Kenya, Mozambique, participatory, transdisciplinarity, transformations
National Category
Other Natural Sciences
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-152290 (URN)10.5751/ES-09932-230123 (DOI)000432464800033 ()
Available from: 2018-01-30 Created: 2018-01-30 Last updated: 2018-06-25Bibliographically approved
3. Restoring our senses, restoring the Earth. Fostering imaginative capacities through the Arts for envisioning climate transformations
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Restoring our senses, restoring the Earth. Fostering imaginative capacities through the Arts for envisioning climate transformations
(English)In: Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, E-ISSN 2325-1026Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

Humanity has never lived in a world where global average temperature is above two degrees of current levels. Moving towards such High-End Climate Change (HECC) futures is likely to involve high uncertainty, non-linear dynamics in global ecologies and a fundamental challenge to current governance structures. Responding to such a world will require more than technical and conventional solutions. We depart in this paper from the notion that human imagination may be a central capacity to support multiple learning processes necessary in triggering transformative change. We developed a three-years long art-based approach to knowledge co-creation  We explore the possibilities of fostering with the intention to boost imaginative capacities in support to the development of transformative societal visions. The process combines a range of performative, visual and reflexive practices with the ambition to reach out to more-than-rational but also practical elements of future visioning processes. The empirical case was realized alongside a science-led participatory knowledge co-creation process within the EU project IMPRESSIONS, in the Iberian Peninsula. Our analysis focuses on the ways in which this art-based approach brought new ways of seeing, feeling and interpreting the world given the present climate challenge. The approach supported participants in the development of a sensibility towards the future and suggested ways in which the future can be made present in order to empower and infuse action. 

Keywords
art-based research, social-ecological, art-science, high-end climate change, knowledge coproduction, action-research, transdisciplinarity
National Category
Other Humanities not elsewhere specified
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-152291 (URN)
Available from: 2018-01-30 Created: 2018-01-30 Last updated: 2018-02-07Bibliographically approved
4. ‘Raising the temperature’: the arts on a warming planet
Open this publication in new window or tab >>‘Raising the temperature’: the arts on a warming planet
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2018 (English)In: Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, ISSN 1877-3435, E-ISSN 1877-3443, Vol. 31, p. 71-79Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The search for decisive actions to remain below 1.5 °C of global temperature rise will require profound cultural transformations. Yet our knowledge of how to promote and bring about such deep transformative changes in the minds and behaviours of individuals and societies is still limited. As climate change unravels and the planet becomes increasingly connected, societies will need to articulate a shared purpose that is both engaging and respectful of cultural diversity. Thus, there is a growing need to ‘raise the temperature’ of integration between multiple ways of knowing climate change. We have reviewed a range of literatures and synthesized them in order to draw out the perceived role of the arts in fostering climate transformations. Our analysis of climate-related art projects and initiatives shows increased engagement in recent years, particularly with the narrative, visual and performing arts. The arts are moving beyond raising awareness and entering the terrain of interdisciplinarity and knowledge co-creation. We conclude that climate-arts can contribute positively in fostering the imagination and emotional predisposition for the development and implementation of the transformations necessary to address the 1.5 °C challenge.

Keywords
art-science, climate-arts, transformations, transdisciplinarity, IPCC, climate change, art-based research
National Category
Other Social Sciences Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-152292 (URN)10.1016/j.cosust.2017.12.010 (DOI)000433107100011 ()
Available from: 2018-01-30 Created: 2018-01-30 Last updated: 2018-06-25Bibliographically approved

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