Transitions and the Everyday

Robyn Dowling (Macquarie University) reports…

In one sense it is difficult to see sustainability transitions emerging from the everyday practices of urban and suburban life. Built into the patterns and practices of daily life – of living in housing, of maintaining familial and social networks, of earning a living – is intensive use of fossil fuels. High household energy consumption, reliance on the private motor vehicle, and avid consumption of household ‘stuff’ are, in the main, normalized and, importantly, connected to valorized urban identities – of home ownership, of parenting, of providers, of workers, to name a few. But is this always and everywhere the case? Is it possible that everyday practices and identities cement unsustainable resource use yet, simultaneously, have embedded within them transitions to less resource-intensive futures?

One suggestion is that perhaps we need to think about everyday practice in a more open way. In much of my recent research I have been concerned with the means through which socio-material arrangements – the energy intensive suburban household – are held together. But in thinking through these socio-material assemblages I have also become alert to their nascent seeds of obsolescence, or more realistically cracks in their walls. I am indebted theoretically here to Gibson-Graham’s[i] decentring of capitalism and the notion of the universalized, disciplined, subject of capitalism. Simplifying greatly, for Gibson-Graham, capitalism is not universal but multiple; not omnipotent, but fractured. For me, Gibson-Graham’s work is inspirational in helping suggest that new identities, new ways of identifying with and identifying carbon-different alternatives are nascent in the present. In other words, identities in transition are already in existence; the practices of the resource-dependent suburban household may contain traces of sustainable practice worth recognizing and building upon.

[i] J.K. Gibson-Graham. 2006. The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.