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Giuseppe Feola
The Schismogenic Hypothesis: Conceptualizing Grassroots Sustainability Transformation as a Process of Conscious Self-Determination by Differentiation
The Colloquium will take place on 11 April 2022, 3.00 pm. To join our colloquium please register with Zoom:
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Topic description / abstract:
Theorizations of sustainability transformation have foregrounded the construction (making) of novel socioecological relations; however, they generally have obscured processes of deliberate deconstruction (unmaking) of existing, unsustainable ones. Amidst ever more compelling evidence of the simultaneous unsustainability and continued reproduction of capitalist modernity, it is misguided to assume that transformation can happen by the mere construction of supposed ‘solutions’, be they technological, social or cultural. We rather need to better understand whether and how existing institutions, forms of knowledge, practices, imaginaries, power structures, and human-non-human relations can be deconstructed or disabled at the service of sustainability transformation. This talk demonstrates the usefulness of a lens that attends to processes of making and unmaking in sustainability transformations through an analysis of cases of grassroots initiatives that concretely prefigure sustainable and just alternatives to capitalism. This talk identifies processes of unmaking of capitalism in illustrative agri-food grassroots initiatives in Europe and Colombia, and demonstrates how they are concretely entangled in the construction of post-capitalist socioeconomic and socioecological relations. Central to this is the dialogue between theories from as diverse fields as sustainability transitions, degrowth, political ecology, decolonial and indigenous, resistance, anarchist, and cultural studies scholarship. The talk concludes by proposing, as a way of synthesis, a conceptualization of grassroots initiatives as schismogenic processes – processes of conscious self-determination by differentiation. This allows to formulate novel hypotheses and research questions on the generative forces underpinning making and unmaking and enabling directionality of grassroots sustainability transformation.   
Biographical note: 
Dr. Giuseppe Feola is a social scientist who conducts research on socioecological change in modern societies. His research aims to develop an empirically based theory of societal transformation towards forms of society and economy which, not depending on perpetual economic growth, aim at the wellbeing of all and sustain the ecological basis of life. His research unfolds primarily along two research lines. First, he is interested in ongoing processes of societal transformation led by grassroots civil society actors and social movements, especially those mobilizing around agri-food systems' (un)sustainability. Central to this research line is the un-disciplined use of sustainability transition and transformation theories, including critical, postdevelopment and decolonial approaches for theorizing transformation toward sustainability. Second, he is interested in understanding the linkages between the environment and rural development, and how individual and collective actors attempt to govern them. For example, he has investigated sociocultural responses of Andean peasant to environmental change, and land-use conflicts related to urban transformation in peri-urban spaces. This research has primarily taken place in Europe and Colombia. Dr Feola is Associate Professor of Social Change for Sustainability in the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. He has an undergraduate degree in Sociology (2002) from the University of Milan-Bicocca, an MSc in Environmental Economics and Management (2003) from Bocconi University in Milan, and a PhD (2010) from the Department of Geography of the University of Zurich.
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