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Towards 'Care-ful' Sustainability: New Analytical Lenses to Human-Environment Interactions

Project Topic Overview

This theme aims to reinvigorate the discussion of human-environment interactions through the discussion of ‘care’, in contributing towards a new articulations of ‘care-ful’ sustainability. We aim to approach care, as a lens of knowing meaningful ways of life, and as a critical hermeneutic in enabling discussion of transformations of human and environment interactions to sustainability. Thus furthering our understanding on how these impact on mundane aspects of practices and injustice. We welcome PhD research proposals to investigate different landscapes of care, in examining the mutuality and mutability of caring relations and theorising personal, social and ecological relations as a set of values and moral principles in making sense of sustainability.

The theme aims to advance our approach to sustainability that is contextually, socially and culturally sensitive. It is committed to understanding what care means through engaging with different encounters, performance and interactions between human and more-than-human, as well as human and the social-eco worlds. We would like to support PhD applicants who would potentially collect creative data and offer innovative interpretations and analysis, such as those derived from sensory, material and visceral narratives, ‘filtered’ through different forms of mundane encounters and performance of care. In doing so, we aim to develop new toolkits/methods, theoretical framings and knowledge of human-environment interactions, and to make sense of diverse lived experiences, strategies and innovations, involving critical evaluation of the reciprocity of caring relations. Also, we aim to renew our understanding of care by which individuals are emplaced in different eco-social relationships, practices and settings, whether it entails care for the self, care for others, care with others, or being cared for, care for the environment and for more-than-human, and to translate situated examples of interactions into a global standpoint of ‘care-ful’ sustainability.

Potential PhD projects will focus on topics such as everyday ecological care, eco-social movements and technological innovations; food consumption and materiality of care; physical environments and enabling caring places; therapeutic landscapes of care; care of/through/with ecologies; collaborative forms of production, such as connecting scientific knowing, social movements, and art interventions; feminist ethics of care and feminist approaches to sensing the environment.

PhD proposals should respond to the ethos of TRANSFORM by contributing important theoretical and methodological gaps with regard to the complexity of human-environment interactions and their relationship to context-specific issues, such as socio-environmental justice, as well as environmental, human and more-than-human health and wellbeing outcomes. Equally of significance, applicants are encouraged to engage with novel methodological approaches through creative data derived from visual, sensory and visceral encounters, and their associated moral and cultural significance, as both enabling and disenabling means for transforming to sustainability. Thus revealing inequities in different caring contexts, disentangling porous boundaries and thresholds in relation to care, and highlighting its potential in empowering local communities through the lens of care, marked by relationality and reciprocity.

Applicant Profile

Applicants should have a good undergraduate degree, preferably with postgraduate academic training in social sciences and humanities, including social research, human geography, sociology, anthropology or cultural studies. A background in visual arts or creative practices is also welcomed. The candidates are expected to have received substantial research methods training prior to their PhD programme and demonstrated great interest and potential in developing an independent research project in relation to care-ful sustainability.

Supervisory Team

Dr Xiaodong Lin, Global Sustainable Development

Dr Lin is Director of the TRANSFORM PhD scholarship programme. His research takes a critical approach to sustainable development through the lens of culture. He has carried out a number of funded research projects in relation to food, ageing, gender, migration and everyday life, supported by the ESRC, the BBSRC and the British Academy. His research is underpinned by theoretical engagement with discussion on cultural values in order to open up existing discourses of development and sustainability in relation to health, care and wellness. Through engaging with local cultural beliefs and mundane practices, he hopes to generate new knowledge and to make sense of the cultural vectors of global challenges in relation to sustainability.

Dr Cath Lambert, Department of Sociology

Dr Lambert's work includes exciting projects and adventures in research, teaching, art, writing, performance, serious play and collaborations of different kinds. She has published in the areas of school leadership and masculinity, gender and sexuality, higher education, research based learning, critical and participatory pedagogies, queer theory and live sociology and art. She is co-lead on one of the University's Global Research Priority areas, Connecting Cultures. She has carried out research collaborates with the live art organisation Fierce Festival to explore the pedagogic value of live art as well as with Vincent Dance Theatre and Birmingham based Theatre Company Stan's Cafe.

Dr Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies

Dr Puig de la Bellacasa works at the crossing of science and technology studies, feminist theory and the environmental humanities. Her work attempts to connect a feminist materialist tradition of critical thinking on care with debates on more than human ontologies and ecological practices. Her work examines the ongoing formations of novel ecological cultures, looking at how connections between scientific knowing, social and community movements, and art interventions are contributing to transformative ethics, politics and justice in troubled naturecultural worlds. She also looks for interstitial spaces of knowing and doing that disrupt seemingly hegemonic technoscientific regimes – in particular everyday forms of ecological care in minoritarian eco-social movements such as permaculture and material spiritualities.

Dr Nerea Calvillo, Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies

Dr Calvillo's work investigates the material, technological, political and social dimensions of environmental pollution, analysing notions of toxicity, digital infrastructures of environmental monitoring, DIY and collaborative forms of production, smart cities, and feminist approaches to sensing the environment, among others. Dr Calvillo is founder of the collaborative visualisation project In the Air and the architecture office C+arquitectos, and her current work is on toxic politics, pollen and queer urban political ecologies.

External Mentorship

Depending on the topic of the PhD project, potential external mentors might include: