Sustainability for Whom? The Politics of Imagining Environmental Change in Education
Abstract: Global initiatives regarding environmental change have increasingly become part of political agendas and of our collective imagination. In order to form sustainable societies, education is considered crucial by organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union. But how is the notion of sustainability imagined and formed in educational practices? What does sustainability make possible, and whom does it involve? These critical questions are not often asked in educational research on sustainability. This study suggests that the absence of critical questions in sustainability education is part of a contemporary post-political framing of environmental issues. In order to re-politicize sustainability in education, this study critically explores how education—as an institution and a practice that is supposed to foster humans—responds to environmental change. The aim is to explore how sustainability is formed in education, and to discuss how these formations relate to ideas of what education is, and whom it is for. This interdisciplinary study uses theories and concepts from cultural studies, feminist theory, political theory, and philosophy of education to study imaginaries of the unknown, nonhuman world in the context of education. The focus of the empirical investigation is on teacher education in Sweden, and more precisely on those responsible for teaching the future generations of teachers – the teacher instructors. With help from empirical findings from focus groups, the study asks questions about the ontological, political, and ethical potential and risk of bringing the unknown Other into education.
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