Special Issue "Rethinking Environmental Citizenship for Grassroots Politics "

A special issue of Social Sciences (ISSN 2076-0760). This special issue belongs to the section "Contemporary Politics and Society".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 August 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Mine Islar
Website
Guest Editor
Lund University
Dr. Yang Mundo
Website
Guest Editor
University of Siegen, Department of Social Sciences, Am Herrengarten 3, D-57072 Siegen, Germany

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In response to climate change, social inequality and environmental degradation, citizens in various countries developed grassroot forms of civic engagement. It appears that civic engagement has turned to the local and the material in order to establish alternative socio-material orders. Community supported agriculture, zero-waste-networks, community gardens, repair cafés, eco-villages, energy cooperatives, upcycling projects, slow food, and green mobility are just a few examples of this development. These phenomena have been studied under conceptual frameworks such as grassroots innovations, real utopias, degrowth, prefigurative politics of sustainable lifestyle, conviviality, and or solidarity economy. They have promoted a turn towards material objects, infrastructures, bodily practices, emotions, and tangible space within research of social-ecological transformation. Most of the studies in this field address questions of how to scale-up related practices or interpret this development as part of movement mobilization, which tries to decrease the dominance of growth economy in everyday life.

In this regard, academia offers a broad range of approaches including sociological accounts of critical subjectivity or social change, and approaches from critical geography, cultural studies, environmental politics and ecological economics. The idea behind this conjunction of the material turn and the political is twofold. On the one hand, bringing the political into the research of the material dimensions of engagement for social-ecological change emphasizes its conflictive and public character. This could shed light on the reappropriation of public space, the provision of material proof regarding contested issues, and the creative politicization of everyday life. On the other hand, bringing the material turn into the research on the political, engaged citizenship and participation could allow us to elucidate these struggles which used to be dismissed as apolitical due to their high reliance on material, emotional, and spatial practices.

Contributions will adopt one of the two aspects and translate them to the related turns towards the material and to practices of the political. The concept of the political refers to a specific way of dealing with irreconcilable conflicts about common affairs in a non-violent, agonistic and public manner. It goes beyond standard distinctions of politics, policy, and polity, but stresses the decisive role of direct participation and public conflict about the rules of coexistence. Environmental citizenship stands for understandings and practices of how individuals or groups can engage as active members of their communities in order to secure planetary co-existence.

Against this backdrop, contributions may address the following questions:

  • What are the major drivers (i.e environmental, economic or social justice) for mobilization of grassroots initiatives?
  • Which forms of politicization result from grassroots initiatives?
  • To what extent should they be recognized as forms of politically engaged citizenship and as drivers for structural change?
  • What kind of public and political contestation emerges when civic engagement has turned to the local, the material and the cooperative solutions for sustainability?
  • How do grassroots initiatives sustain their environmental practices in the age of populism?

Dr. Mine Islar
Dr. Yang Mundo
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Grassroots innovations
  • real utopias
  • environmentalism
  • citizenship
  • sustainable lifestyle
  • prefigurative politics
  • socio-ecological change
  • degrowth

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Revisiting the Right to the City, Rethinking Urban Environmentalism: From Lifeworld Environmentalism to Planetary Environmentalism
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(2), 15; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9020015 - 11 Feb 2020
Abstract
In the environmental politics literature, cities are commonly framed as key sites for a shift towards greater sustainability and urban grassroots initiatives, such as food co-ops, urban gardening initiatives, repair cafés, and libraries of things, are commonly portrayed as such a shift’s key [...] Read more.
In the environmental politics literature, cities are commonly framed as key sites for a shift towards greater sustainability and urban grassroots initiatives, such as food co-ops, urban gardening initiatives, repair cafés, and libraries of things, are commonly portrayed as such a shift’s key drivers. This paper develops a critical perspective on both common portrayals. It does so by drawing on critical urban theory, especially Lefebvre’s Right to the City. First, inspired by Lefebvre’s critique of city-centrism, the paper argues that the scope and limits of urban environmentalism hinge not only on the goals pursued but also on how the urban is framed. Urban environmentalism may mean mere lifeworld environmentalism: the greening of cities as if there were (relatively) bounded sites. Yet urban environmentalism may also mean planetary environmentalism: the mapping, problematization, and transformation of unsustainable urbanization processes that underpin given sites and lifeworlds, but also operate at beyond the latter—at a societal and planetary scale. Second, inspired by Lefebvre’s reformulation of right claims as a transformative political tool, this paper takes issue with environmental practices and discourses that present society’s niches, cracks, and margins as a key fermenting ground for radical environmental change. Since not only institutional but also bottom-up pursuits of more sustainable nature-society relations often remain stuck in mere lifeworld reform, this paper foregrounds heterodox right claims as an underexplored modus operandi in active pursuits of and discourses on radical environmental change. Heterodox right claims mean the active appropriation of dominant political languages, such as the language of right, while seeking to change the latter’s grammar. What this may mean in the realm of environmental politics, will be spelled out at hand of the example of claims to a right to public transport. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rethinking Environmental Citizenship for Grassroots Politics )
Open AccessArticle
Information Infrastructures and the Future of Ecological Citizenship in the Anthropocene
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(1), 3; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9010003 - 05 Jan 2020
Abstract
In the last two decades, the concept of ecological citizenship has become a recurrent theme in both popular and academic discussions. Discussions around the prospects of, and limitations to, ecological citizenship have mostly focused on the idea of political agency and the civic [...] Read more.
In the last two decades, the concept of ecological citizenship has become a recurrent theme in both popular and academic discussions. Discussions around the prospects of, and limitations to, ecological citizenship have mostly focused on the idea of political agency and the civic responsibility of individuals in relation to their environments, with an emphasis on environmental justice and sustainability. However, the current scholarship has yet to adequately characterize its conceptual bases and empirical applications from an information perspective. Therefore, this paper provides an overview of citizenship studies and infrastructure studies for developing more nuanced understanding(s) of epistemological models for ecological citizenship in our networked world. Drawing on the literature on information infrastructure, this paper then proposes a conceptual framework to understand ecological citizenship as constituted both discursively and techno-materially through neoliberal, anthropocentric informational infrastructures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rethinking Environmental Citizenship for Grassroots Politics )
Open AccessArticle
Diverse Citizenship? Food Sovereignty and the Power of Acting Otherwise
Soc. Sci. 2019, 8(12), 331; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci8120331 - 13 Dec 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
This contribution discusses two different but interlinked fields of research: political theories of sovereignty and citizenship, as well as conceptualizations of emerging alternative food movements. In drawing on James Tully’s practiced-based understanding of ‘diverse citizenship’, as well as on other selected theories of [...] Read more.
This contribution discusses two different but interlinked fields of research: political theories of sovereignty and citizenship, as well as conceptualizations of emerging alternative food movements. In drawing on James Tully’s practiced-based understanding of ‘diverse citizenship’, as well as on other selected theories of postmodern political thought, it focuses on the contested political nature of the food sovereignty movement, specifically with regard to the dynamics and actions that have brought it into being. In doing so, it conceives of citizenship as materializing on the basis of multi-faceted practices of ‘acting otherwise’, which stands in sharp contrast to a conceptualization of citizenship as an institutionalized status, as it is understood in the liberal tradition. In order to deepen and to sharpen this alternative approach, this contribution additionally draws on Theodore Schatzki’s practice theory, which, despite its rather apolitical character, makes it possible to conceive of political practices as emergent and situational phenomena that are closely connected to the quotidian practices of everyday life. The combination of these perspectives bears great potential for theoretical discussions on alternative food movements as well as for their empirical investigation, since it puts emphasis on the way how practitioners and advocates for food sovereignty disclose themselves in multifaceted struggles over the imposition and the challenging of the rules of social living together. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rethinking Environmental Citizenship for Grassroots Politics )
Open AccessArticle
Real-World Sustainable Citizenship between Political Consumerism and Material Practices
Soc. Sci. 2019, 8(11), 311; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci8110311 - 12 Nov 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
While the number of theoretical concepts surrounding sustainable citizenship, political consumerism and ethical lifestyles is rising continuously, this article is interested in how citizens themselves delineate sustainable citizenship through their practices. Asking which contours real-world sustainable citizenship has, we draw on the practice [...] Read more.
While the number of theoretical concepts surrounding sustainable citizenship, political consumerism and ethical lifestyles is rising continuously, this article is interested in how citizens themselves delineate sustainable citizenship through their practices. Asking which contours real-world sustainable citizenship has, we draw on the practice turn. From this perspective, sustainable citizenship might be an empirical nexus of material practices, like buying organic products or sharing goods. These practices rely on dispositions that include practical rules, attitudes and political values. With survey data from Germany (N = 1350) and using principle component analysis, we reconstruct sustainable citizenship through stable and widespread real-world patterns. The results suggest that sustainable citizenship is a relatively coherent, nonetheless hybrid bundle of performances and dispositions. Real-world sustainable citizenship most resembles political consumerism, but consists overall of three distinct practices: sustainable purchasing, reduced consumption, and green mobility. All three are shown to be connected to engaged citizenship norms and the intention to advance social-ecological change. However, social class seems to prevent some citizens particularly from applying sustainable purchasing, while age and infrastructures constrain green mobility. Altogether, our results show that citizens from all social backgrounds practice sustainable citizenship. Yet they do so through different forms of practices, adjusted to their capabilities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rethinking Environmental Citizenship for Grassroots Politics )
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Open AccessArticle
Ecological Citizens with a Movie Camera: Communitarian and Agonistic Environmental Documentaries
Soc. Sci. 2019, 8(11), 307; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci8110307 - 08 Nov 2019
Abstract
Environmental documentaries attained wider public and academic attention, especially in the aftermath of Al Gore’s prominent documentary on climate change An Inconvenient Truth. Making environmental documentaries is a cinematic form of political advocacy. However, there is a lack of research on the [...] Read more.
Environmental documentaries attained wider public and academic attention, especially in the aftermath of Al Gore’s prominent documentary on climate change An Inconvenient Truth. Making environmental documentaries is a cinematic form of political advocacy. However, there is a lack of research on the broad range of such films from Germany. While earlier works tended to an accusatory style, newer environmental documentary seems to be more constructive and aiming at spreading information about feasible alternatives. This article pursues three objectives: first, to gain a deeper understanding of the shift from accusatory to constructive documentaries; second, to connect film studies to the political change-making role and therefore to theories of ecological citizenship; and third, to explore the question of what citizenship with a movie camera means. The accusatory and constructive style are associated with agonistic and communitarian ecological citizenship. A sample of two films from the German context, namely Leben ausser Kontrolle produced by Bertram Verhaag in 2004 and Voices of Transition produced by Nils Aguilar in 2012, is analyzed comparatively. The interpretive research method combines methods of studying audio-visual rhetoric with the framing approach from social movement studies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rethinking Environmental Citizenship for Grassroots Politics )
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