Towards a cultural politics of sustainability transitions : an exploratory study of artistic activism in Scottish community woodlands
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Sustainability, and transitions away from currently prevailing unsustainability, is a project with political (economic) and cultural dimensions. Yet, the potential of a cultural political lens to investigate sustainability prefigurations is neglected by the academy. Moreover, existing cultural political conceptualizations are ontologically incoherent with green political perspectives. In this thesis, I articulate a revised notion of cultural politics consistent with normative visions of sustainability transitions, and validate the new approach through an exploratory investigation of Scottish community woodland organizations (CWOs). CWOs are alternative organizations troubling hegemonic land tenurial and forest management practices. However, these organizations are under- researched by sustainability scholars. The study shows how one CWO prefigures sustainability transitions, not least through distinctive woodland artistic activities. The thesis narrates threefold theoretical originality, and also extends empirical knowledge. Originality lies (first) in the practice-theoretical recasting of cultural politics theory, (second) in the synthesis concept describing practices of everyday artistic activism, and (third) in the green republican interpretive framework of sustainability subjectivities, against which cultural political performances may be evaluated. Empirical originality lies in the exploration of community woodlands. I argue that through practices of everyday artistic activism and more general woodland practices, woodland activists perform alternative conceptions of human-nature relations, intrahuman relations, and organization. Through these performances, woodland artistic activists enact a cultural politics of sustainability transitions, and make visible alternative modes of humans being in the world. The study contributes to theoretical debates concerned with cultural politics and artistic activism, with researching community organizing for sustainability transitions, and with interpretive approaches to sustainability knowledge production. Empirically, it extends alternative organizational knowledge, showing how sustainability subjectivities can be communicated through woodland practices.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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