Special Issue Journal Environmental Policy and Planning

Material dependencies: hidden underpinnings of sustainability transitions

Editors: Kristof Van Assche, Martijn Duineveld, Monica Gruezmacher, Raoul Beunen & Vladislav Valentinov

Sustainability transitions bring together many different disciplines focussing on the interrelations between the social and the material. The burgeoning field of transition studies is becoming more inter-disciplinary, less normative, less modernist in nature, and more open to both discursive and material dynamics. Social-ecological systems thinking, already sensitive to ecological relations and vulnerabilities in their governance thinking, is similarly opening up to other disciplines, and considering the social and discursive with more care and open minds. In geography and anthropology, a turn to the body, to materiality and to affect preceded these developments, sometimes inspired by Deleuzian theory, sometimes simply through careful observation. Policy studies and planning, meanwhile, have picked up on the need to contribute to transitions and the pathways of sustainable development.

The contributions to this special issue explicitly aim to contribute to these inter-disciplinary debates on governance for sustainability. They explore the integration of insights from various disciplines to regain a more comprehensive understanding of the impact of material environments, both natural and human-made, on the formation and functioning of communities, their cultures, and their governance systems. The collection aims to contribute to this collective re-balancing of theories between discursive and material by highlighting how both connect: in governance, where collectively binding decisions are made to shape, exploit and protect the environment while the wider social issues and governance are simultaneously shaped by its material substrate.

Material dependencies: hidden underpinnings of sustainability transitions
Van Assche, K., Duineveld, M., Beunen, R., Valentinov, V., & Gruezmacher, M.

Infrastructural legacies and post-Soviet transformations in Northern Sakha (Yakutiya), Russia
Schweitzer, P., & Povoroznyuk, O.

Materialities, discourses and governance: scallop culture in Sechura, Peru
Kluger, L. C., Schlüter, A., Garteizgogeascoa, M., & Damonte, G.

The modern railway and the Swedish state – competing storylines about state capacity, modernisation and material dependencies in the Swedish high-speed rail discourse, 1995–2020
Haikola, S., & Anshelm, J.

New problems for assemblage thinking: materiality, governance and cycling in Sydney, Australia
Lea, T., Buchanan, I., Fuller, G., & Waitt, G.

Tackling material dependency in sustainability transition: rationales and insights from the agriculture sector
Pellizzoni, L., & Centemeri, L.