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ASI Seed Money: Decolonising Sustainability Research in Practice

25 March 2022
One of the winning projects of the latest ASI seed money edition is this project about decolonising sustainability transitions research.

One of the most urgent discussions taking place at the crossroads of sustainability transitions research and post- and decolonial studies today is: how can global ecological collapse be countered without erasing the local realities of indigenous peoples worldwide? The challenge is that while the ongoing ecological collapse forms a global emergency, any universal solution is problematic since it is by definition bound to override local, indigenous autonomy. Yet, developing new, ambitious and potent decolonial research designs and practices to address such obstacles is fraught with challenges. A major difficulty concerns research grants, since calls for funding tend to work with criteria that tacitly reinforce inequitable and hierarchical research practices that effectively exclude indigenous and global south thinkers and leaders; for instance by restricting eligibility to scholars based in the Netherlands/Europe, restricting the understanding of social impact and valorisation to the Dutch/European contexts, and upholding a scientific view of research methods that may be at odds with indigenous views of knowledge generation and dissemination. Accordingly, the research question that this project will investigate is: How can academics collaborate with indigenous communities to co-create decolonial sustainability transitions research practices that counter the neo-colonialist extraction of planetary and financial resources, and of local knowledges? To address this question the project will employ a grounded approach and organize a series of workshops together with indigenous thinkers and leaders.

Participating scientists

  • Dr Joana Meroz, assistant professor in design culture, history and theory, Faculty of Humanities, Art and Culture, History, Antiquity, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Prof Monika Kirloskar-Steinbach, professor of philosophy, Faculty of Humanities, Ancient, Patristic and Medieval Philosophy, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Prof Wouter Veraart, professor of legal philosophy, Faculty of Law, Legal Theory and Legal History, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Dr Ellen Bal, associate professor in Faculty of Social Sciences, Social and Cultural Anthropology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Project advisory board

  • Marco Last MA, Grants Specialist, VU Grants Office, Vrije University Amsterdam
  • Dr Angela Roothaan, assistant professor in Intercultural and African philosophy, criticism of modernity, spirituality, and spirit ontologies, Faculty of Humanities, Filosofie van cultuur, politiek en organisatie
  • Prof Marjo de Theije, professor of anthropology of resources, Faculty of Social Sciences, Social and Cultural Anthropology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Environmental Humanities Center (Prof Petra van Dam; Dr Kristine Steenbergh), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

*Photo credit: Bruna Octaviano, Tomie (2021). Handwoven tapestry, cotton and natural dyes. São Paulo (Brazil).

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