What could Sustainable Academic Cultures be?

9 March 2021

– A Travelling Conversation

Picture from canva.com

During the Spring of 2020, just when the Corona pandemic was starting to unfold, some of us at CEFO – The Center for Environment and Development Studies Research Forum, started talking about writing something together in a different way. Instead of everyone sitting together or working on the same document to come up with a single voiced narrative – the common approach to co-authoring – we wanted to try something new. If we had a different writing process, would it change the written outcome? How would how we write change what we write? 

We came up with the idea of a “traveling conversation”, inspired by a method witnessed at an Anticipation conference in Oslo recently. Everyone participating would get a common question, in our case “What are sustainable academic cultures?” One person, let’s say A, would start by writing a response to this question, and then pass it on to another person, B. Then, B would write a piece responding both to the overarching question and to A’s response. The third person C, however, will only receive the piece that B wrote, and write a response based on that. The following Person D will only receive what C wrote, and so on. The last person sends it back to A, which A writes a response to, and the circle is complete.  

The rule was to keep the response short, around 1 page or 500 words, and then to write and forward your response quickly, within a week once it’s passed on to you.

Why “sustainable academic cultures”? The exact question had lodged its way into our thoughts by way of a keynote talk topic one of our colleagues (Keri) was invited to give, but had already been floating around in different forms – given the nature of our academic work around climate change, this question proved persistent. As a topic with multiple layers, many ways to approach it, and with the inspiring Anticipation conference fresh in mind, it was a simple exchange between colleagues over coffee that pushed us to engage in this brief and rich writing venture – perhaps something that was not strictly “academic” could enable some generative ways of thinking! 

And so here it is. The traveling conversation is now in your hands. We pass it on to you. What are sustainable academic cultures? What could it be and how could we foster such a culture? Let us know if you write a response.

The texts will be published once a week on Tuesdays:

Week 10: A culture that cares? Sanna Barrineau

Week 11: Slow down and care, Sachiko Ishihara

Week 12: World-making conversations, Isak Stoddard

Week 13: Encounters in Pandemic academia, Lakin Anderson

Week 14: Working with impossibility, Keri Facer

Week 15: Weaving, guts and darkness, Sanna Barrineau

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