DSA2017: Sustainability interrogated: societies, growth, and social justice
University of Bradford, 6-8th September
Sustainability is increasingly conceptualized as a form of ‘public good’ in development theory and practice. But the idea of sustainability has always been contentious, mediated by power relations at global, regional, national and local levels. Commonly policy approaches focus on eco-economic or bio-economic models rather than interrogating sustainability’s inherently political dynamism. The wide range of explanations and conceptions of sustainable development can be roughly grouped into:
- ‘problem solving/rationalist’ perspectives, that conceptualise sustainable development as a compromise between the use of the environment, the pursuit of economic growth and moves towards poverty eradication/reduction and social stability, or
- ‘critical theory’ perspectives, that call for the reconfiguration (often the radical reconfiguration) of power relations and institutions to achieve social justice and peaceable societies. The issue is no longer one of what forms of growth but what type of capitalism (or alternatives).
This conference welcomes papers and panels from either (or both) ‘problem solving’ and ‘critical theory’ perspectives and will provide the opportunity for interested scholars to ‘go deep’ within their chosen framing and take a ‘look over the fence’ at what other analytical perspectives ‘are up to’. The conference is intended to be as inclusive as possible, and therefore, paper and panel proposals on other topics will also be included in the conference programme.
The conference brings together academics, civil society organisations and policy makers to explore sustainability in diverse spatial, ecological and social economic contexts - urban and rural areas; stable and conflict-affected countries; emerging global powers and marginal regions. There is a particular interest in the relationships and flows that link such very different locations and societies.
Critical questions to be covered in this conference include:
- Is it still relevant to talk about sustainability as though it is not a contended and contentious issue for development?
- To what extent is the discourse of “sustainability” shaping a range of policies and practices at local and global level? What effect is this having on patterns of inequality, poverty, and insecurity?
- How do critical concepts such as power, capital, and gender help us to understand the challenges presented by economic growth and sustainability?
- What are the challenges to conceptualising and interpreting sustainability in different contexts and scales?
- Can we achieve synergies between sustainability, security, sovereignty and effective resource governance…or are these interactions about trade-offs?
- To what extent, and how, are the SDGs relevant and useful for ending global poverty and achieving gender equality and empowering women?
- How can, and should, sustainability be linked with political and societal resilience in fragile or conflict affected areas?
These are some suggested questions and topics - we welcome all contributors that illuminate the theme of sustainability from any analytical angle and in a variety of ways.
The conference convenors are keen to involve the wider community of colleagues working in the realm of policy and practice and would particularly welcome proposals from them for conventional panels or sessions in other formats that would generate exciting discussion and exchange of ideas.
While traditional academic papers will be a significant element of the conference, we are also keen to encourage a range of other ways of fostering engagement between conference participants, and between participants and the conference’s key themes and questions. These will include opportunities for dialogue, reflection, and creative expression – show your film or paintings at the conference. Overall, we are aiming to achieve a rich, diverse and stimulating range of activities. Alongside proposals for papers, then, we would also welcome proposals for sessions and activities that are innovative and a little bit different.