University of Tasmania
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Encounters with sustainability in Tasmania: an interpretive inquiry

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posted on 2023-05-28, 09:40 authored by Kim BeasyKim Beasy
Critical discourses of sustainability challenge modern rhetoric of economic growth and challenge current modes of social development. Yet sustainability discourses are shaped predominantly by the perspectives and interests of middle class, tertiary educated, urban policy makers or environmentalists and have insufficiently engaged people beyond these cohorts, even in the advanced-capitalist societies where they have originated. In this study, I investigate how people who are not strongly engaged with sustainability discourses understand and engage with many of the underlying concerns that animate these discourses from the context of their situated, everyday experiences. I draw upon Pierre Bourdieu's concepts of habitus, field, and capital to design a qualitative study in Tasmania, Australia to explore how situated knowledges inform interpretations of sustainability across diverse social locations. The inquiry engages people from a range of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds and life stages, using focus groups and semi-structured interviews. I investigate how particular located subjectivities inform interpretations and practices relating to what it means to aspire to and live sustainably. Focusing on spatial practices, I show that necessities for daily living look different in diverse social contexts, thereby influencing what represents sustainable living. Focusing on temporal practices, I show how future-oriented perspectives influence how and when diverse understandings of sustainability are enacted. The findings provide insight into the ways in which people who are disengaged from discourses of sustainability may be actively engaged in practices of sustainability. The findings also provide practical guidance for environmentalists and policy makers concerning how current discourses of sustainability reflect specific social contexts and experiences. Greater understanding of the effects of universalist accounts of sustainability, in particular social contexts, may enable advocates of sustainability to engage more effectively with others living outside urban, middle class social worlds.


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Copyright 2017 the author

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