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Professor Andrew Stirling - From Grand Challenges to Emancipating Transformations

Andrew Stirling



Professor Andrew Stirling - From Grand Challenges to Emancipating Transformations: transdisciplinarity, sustainability and the democratising of progress

Wednesday 1st November 2017 6.00 - 7.00pm
Keele Hall - The Salvin Room
Refreshments will be available from 5.30pm onwards.

The latest in a series of 'Grand Challenges' lectures from the Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences.



Detailed Description

Against a grim backdrop, attention is welcome to worldwide ‘grand challenges’. After decades of collective action by social movements, commitments to ‘sustainable development goals’ present major opportunities for global social progress. But is all as it seems? In the spirit of the distinctive interdisciplinary mission of ILANS at Keele, this talk will explore some wider practical implications.

With scrutiny freed from disciplinary shackles, disciplinarity itself becomes object (not just subject) of analysis. So the content knowledge is more easily acknowledged as political. Incumbent power can be recognised to help structure key ideas around ‘smart technologies’, ‘responsible innovation’, ‘inclusive governance’, ‘sustainability transitions’, and ‘Anthropocene planetary management’.

It becomes clear how fear-based assumptions around linear, homogeneous notions of stability, hierarchy and control are emphasised at the expense of hope-based visions of nonlinearity, diversity, transformation, mutuality and care. In resulting ‘acceleration’ towards a ‘smart planet’ shaped by ‘planetary geoengineering’, urgency makes democracy an apparent ‘luxury’ that must be ‘put on hold’.

But this is not what sustainability is about! World history underscores that real hopes of these kinds of radical progressive change, lie in not only in transformations that are inherently emancipatory, but in emancipating processes of transformation itself. More reflexive transdisciplinarity, then, can help counter this burgeoning culture of control and help strive towards truly emancipating transformations.


Andy Stirling is a Professor in the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex and co-director of the ESRC STEPS Centre. An interdisciplinary researcher with a background in natural science, archaeology, anthropology and the environment and disarmament movements he’s a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and has served on the board of Greenpeace as well as many science advisory bodies for the EU, UK and other governments and agencies.

This lecture is free and all are welcome to attend.