Summer School 2016: Transformative Human-Environment Research & Participatory Methods: From Co-production to Co-producing
Human-environment research is the interdisciplinary study of how humans live in, affect, govern, reflect upon and perceive their natural environment, and how, in turn, that environment supports or constrains human life and culture. This research draws much of its legitimacy from being relevant for the very organisation of human-environment relations themselves. Considerable effort is thus invested in understanding pressing societal challenges such as sustainable development, climate change adaptation, land competition, biodiversity conservation and water, food and energy security, to name a few. Yet, researchers are increasingly mandated to engage more actively with politics and the plurality of epistemologies and perspectives on these challenges that exist in society. So, how may human-environment research take an active role in transformative research for and with society?
This is the overall question for this summer school which was addressed by applying science and technology studies (STS) and political ecology perspectives to participants’ own cases as well as getting first hands-on experience with transdisciplinary research methods. First, drawing on STS, we will discuss how human-environment research is co-produced (passive voice) through its historical interplay with culture, politics, economy and technology. The participants appreciated how any prevalent knowledge could have turned out differently had other cultural, political, economic and technological factors dominated in its production. Second, drawing on political ecology, it was discussed how this prevalent knowledge was always contested, overtly or not, by alternative framings, and how people are implicated by this knowledge that had no say in its production. Recognising this democratic deficit in knowledge production will provide us with arguments for opening up human-environment research to those different framings, alternative knowledges and implications that exist. Thus, in the remainder of the summer school, the transdisciplinary methods for co-producing (active voice) knowledge between academics and actors outside the academy were taught. The programme was rounded off with a guide to reflexion on transdisciplinary practice, touching on issues such as fairness and competence of transdisciplinary processes.
The participants brought posters to the summer school, where the cases reacted in structured discussions and exercises with the theories and methods offered by international lecturers of STS, political ecology and transdisciplinary research. The 2016 Summer School was organised by Kathrin Klementz and Tobias Krüger.