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The problem with culture: whose idea was it anyway?

Centre for Sustainability Seminar, presented by Professor Janet Stephenson

I take the position that the sustainability crisis is largely a crisis of culture: from globally-influential ideologies, to cultures of production within businesses, to cultures of consumption at the household scale. Widespread cultural change is essential for a sustainable future. But what is culture? Trudging through the dense thickets of cultural theory it is obvious why any normal human finds it hard to explain culture. Culture as a concept has been dominated by academic argument and disciplinary divergence.

In this talk I try to clear some tracks through the jungle, using lay terms, because I believe that the concept of culture needs to be democratised. Academic over-mystification has held up the advance of what is a strong set of theories about our social lives that have direct relevance to the sustainability transition. There is great potential for more widespread application of the academic tools of cultural analysis to sustainability problems, but importantly these must also be accessible and applicable by lay people.

About the speaker

Janet is a research professor at the Centre for Sustainability, a research centre at the University of Otago.

As a social scientist, she is interested in the challenges of transitioning to a low-carbon, sustainable future and the role of culture in that process. Much of her work in recent years has involved interdisciplinary research focused on socio-technical change in New Zealand’s energy sector.

More broadly, her research and writing collaborations include energy cultures, climate change adaptation, and the contribution of Indigenous knowledge to a sustainable future.

Date Thursday, 17 June 2021
Time 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Audience Public,All University
Event Category Humanities
Event Type Seminar
DepartmentCentre for Sustainability
LocationCentre for Sustainability Seminar Room, 563 Castle Street, Dunedin
Contact NameMary-Jane Campbell or Nicki Topliss
Contact Phone03 479 5220

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