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Whitaker Ideas Forum: Mary Greene, Dynamics of Everyday Life–Domestic Consumption and How it Changes; A Critical Geographical Investigation

October 4 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Location: CA110 (SAC Room), Cairnes Building, NUI Galway Galway Ireland

Speaker(s): Mary Greene

Affiliation: Environment, Development and Sustainability Research Cluster

Organised by: Whitaker Institute for Innovation and Societal Change, NUI Galway

The Fall 2017 Whitaker Ideas Forum series continues on 4 October with a seminar by Mary Greene of the Environment, Development and Sustainability research cluster on the topic of ‘Dynamics of Everyday Life–Domestic Consumption and How it Changes; A Critical Geographical Investigation‘.

Understanding how social change has intersected with transformations in key resource-intensive consuming practices that compose part of the fabric and experience of daily living are central to the task of designing interventions for sustainable development and consumption. However, to date little is known about how wider socio-technical transitions have been experienced in the context of lived lives.

This seminar seeks to explore the value of a retrospective approach for revealing the multiple dynamics already existing in the world. It asks what can looking backward on already existing social change inform us about the processes and mechanisms shaping transitions in everyday energy practices? In doing so, it discusses a recent Irish-based qualitative investigation into individuals’ consumption biographies. Adopting a critical biographic-narrative qualitative methodology, this study investigated how individuals’ everyday consumption practices, including food, mobility and laundry practices, have intersected with processes of biographic and socio-technical change. In a European context, Irish exceptionalism in terms of the rate and pace of recent structural change offers a unique context in which to explore the processes under examination. Technological development, shifting economic contexts, spatial planning processes, work and health institutions, changing family structures and gendered opportunities are all implicated in the complex web of contextual processes shaping how consumption is demanded in the home. These socio-technical factors have intersected to steer daily practice towards increasing resource intensity. The presentation will discuss how these findings have important implications for policy, suggesting sustainable consumption requires a much more fundamental challenge to social contexts than is recognised by current neoliberal individualised approaches.