Grounded imaginaries

Transforming how we live in climate-changed futures

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  • Published 20210803
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-62-7
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

THIS WE KNOW: we live within systems, institutions and structures – economic, social, political, cultural and discursive – that are generating disastrous outcomes for all life, including human life.[i] A simple narrative might identify the extraction and burning of fossil fuels as the culprits in causing catastrophic climate change, but these processes cannot be simply sifted out from the ways we live and then eliminated. They are baked into the infrastructures that support and perpetuate the habitual forms of eating, working, communicating, building, taking leisure and moving that constitute life for that part of humanity which is the beneficiary of extractive capitalism. Some people and some forms of life, in other words, make, occupy and rely upon worlds that are producing the ends of worlds for others – human and more-than-human. If the outcome is to be otherwise, the moorings of such lives will have to radically change.

I want to reflect on the role that social imaginaries play in catalysing and nourishing change. Social imaginaries are the shared backgrounds through which we experience ourselves and the world and form our expectations and projects.[ii] The problem is that the dominant social imaginaries of a climate-changed future currently circulating do not provide ways of thinking, feeling and acting that will encourage and enable us to effectively transform the structures and systems that undergird the conditions of human life under industrial capitalism. What they do is engender disengagement, apathy, fantastical thinking, hopelessness and inaction. We need imaginaries that are both alive to the realities of the challenge and that challenge the current realities. At the same time, if they are to hold us – and not float untethered as the stuff of fantastical imagination – such imaginaries must flow from experiments in living already being undertaken as people collectively navigate climate-induced multi-systematic destabilisation. While offering up the prospect of radical – to the root – transformation, they must also be reachable, mediating paths between the possible and the feasible. We do not yet know what these paths will be, nor where they might lead, but ‘grounded imaginaries’ will help us find our way to them and traverse them.[iii]

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About the author

Danielle Celermajer

Danielle Celermajer is a professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney, deputy director (academic) of the Sydney...

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