Cultural Imaginaries of Just Transitions: Fostering Interdisciplinary Discussion on Research and Teaching of Contemporary Ecological Challenges

This project puts the frameworks of 'just transitions'—that is, equitable energy and socio-economic transitions from fossil fuels to renewables—into dialogue with the critical and literary insights of humanities scholars. Through a series of workshops we will examine how cultural production mediates the desires and community formations generated by fossil fuel reliant societies, and how new representational forms can reframe how we imagine and participate in a world of climate emergency, with consequences for teaching and research at UCD.

Literary studies and the environmental humanities have been profoundly impacted by the headway made by the “energy humanities”—a field which, in the context of urgent concerns regarding the climate emergency, has pioneered new ways of thinking about the fuels and infrastructures that power our “real” world and fictional universes. However, less well-theorised is the role that culture – fiction, poetry, film, visual art – can play in just transitions. Discussions of just transitions, that is, equitable energy and socio-economic transitions from fossil fuels to renewables, focus largely on technical and regulatory questions (McCauley and Heffron 2018, Wang and Lo 2021). But just transitions must also involve the critical and literary insights of humanities scholars into the ways culture has mediated the desires, affects and community formations generated by fossil fuel reliant societies, such as popular representations of the “freedom” associated with open roads (Mitchell 2011, LeMenager 2014, Szeman et al 2016). The point of this critical-literary questioning is to unpick what cultural imaginaries or narrative apparatuses might aid in generating a sustainable and just post-fossil fuel society, particularly with the advent of renewables and the impact of climate change. Any future energy transition must necessitate transforming the whole of “nature-society” through new cultural forms that reframe how we perceive collective ways of organising and participating in a world of radically-altered socio-ecological relations. Starting in 2023 this project will examine these issues through a series of workshops focused on emerging cultural trends related to just transitions; the cross-disciplinary teaching of major environmental issues at UCD; and a series of outputs including a web presence, podcasts, and academic publications.

If you are interested in knowing more please get in touch with project lead, Dr Treasa De Loughry (treasa.deloughry@ucd.ie, on leave February-November 2022); or the Director of the Environmental Humanities Thematic Strand, Dr Sharae Deckard (sharae.deckard@ucd.ie).

Projects Leaders:

Grant PI: Dr Treasa De Loughry
UCD School of English, Drama and Film
deloughry@ucd.ie

Environmental Humanities Director of Strand: Dr Sharae Deckard
UCD School of English, Drama and Film
deckard@ucd.ie