Gastvortrag – Dr. Sacha Kagan: The Cultural Dimension of Sustainability. Imaginaries of Sustainable Development and the Artistic Turn in Sustainability Research

Sommervorträge 2019 – Why Environmental Humanities? | Dr. Sacha Kagan has been active for 15 years in the fields of sociology of the arts and urban research, and is among the pioneers of arts-based sustainability research.

Sommervorträge 2019 – Why Environmental Humanities? | Gastvortrag von Dr. phil. Sacha Kagan


Several discourses around sustainable development and sustainability introduced a cultural component. They intersect with discourses on the arts and sustainability. The implications of a cultural dimension imply a procedural understanding of sustainability. Some problematic aspects of dominant approaches in sustainability science then come to the foreground, and alternative approaches are allowed to emerge.

The importance of imaginaries, imagination and aesthetics of complexity becomes salient. Researching social imaginaries of sustainability allows a differentiating perspective on different approaches to sustainability research. This focused attention also encourages sustainability researchers to further reflect on modalities and different framings of creative and reflective approaches to futures-oriented research agendas. Sustainability research needs to develop its self-reflexivity beyond discourse-rational approaches to narratives, with a deeper understanding of both embodied cognition and culture. Critical reflection on, and radically imaginative work with both dominant and alternative imaginaries that sustainability researchers operate from, are a precondition to meeting transformative ambitions.

Artistic and arts-based research, and a cultural approach in social sciences thus gain in relevance, laying the ground for an “artful sustainability” research beyond the limitations of the young neo-discipline of “sustainability science”. Artful approaches hold specific qualities that can contribute to the development of transdisciplinary hermeneutics by enhancing the experience of qualitative complexity. Among the fields of inquiry opened up by such an approach are the development of societal “spaces of possibilities” and the question of a queer-convivialist life-art.


Dr. Sacha Kagan has been active for 15 years in the fields of sociology of the arts and urban research, and is among the pioneers of arts-based sustainability research. He authored over 70 publications and intervened at about 130 events in 32 countries across the world.

He was from 2005 to 2018 a Research Associate at Leuphana University Lüneburg, co-led the transdisciplinary research project “Stadt als Möglichkeitsraum” (2015-2018), was coordinator of Research Network “Sociology of the Arts” at the European Sociological Association (2015-2017), and founding coordinator of the international level of the “Cultura21” network (2007-2016).

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Prof. Dr. rer. nat. phil. habil. Astrid Schwarz
Allgemeine Technikwissenschaft
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