Future Pasts draws on Arts and Humanities research methodologies to document and analyse culturally-inflected perceptions and practices of sustainability. It has a particular geographical focus on west Namibia, where three of our core research team have long-term field research experience.
With Future Pasts we seek to:
* enhance understanding of sociocultural, economic and environmental changes in historical and post-independence contexts;
* document and support cultural heritage and indigenous knowledge regarding present and historical cultural landscapes of west Namibia;
* extend analysis and understanding of the historical ecologies of the Namib;
* interrogate interpretations of ‘sustainability’, particularly those contributing to the promotion of a growth-oriented ‘green economy’;
* foster cross-cultural public discussion of concerns relating to environmental change and sustainability;
* critically engage with the power dimensions shaping whose pasts become transferred forwards to future in contemporary approaches to environmental conservation and sustainability.
Future Pasts is funded primarily through a Major Research Grant from the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC award no. AH/K005871/2), under the Care for the Future Theme’s highlight notice on ‘environmental change and sustainability’ and involves several UK academics from different universities, as well as Namibians working with our partner organisations and as key interviewees during the course of field research (see People).
In Namibia, the project is conducted under a research affiliation contract with the National Museum of Namibia, and is additionally supported by Gobabeb Research & Training Centre, Save the Rhino Trust Namibia, and Mamokobo Film & Research.
Our research is guided by four core research questions, or overarching project threads:
1. Green materialities
How are ‘the past’ and constructions of ‘pastness’ being fashioned into new green materialities that act to perform ‘green economy’ responses to ecological crisis?
2. Cultural and conservation landscapes
How do these new green materialities intersect with differing cultural conceptions of environmental change and sustainability?
3. Environmental change
How can archival and repeat landscape photographs anchor understandings of environmental change, constructions of environmental pasts, and visionings of environmental futures?
4. Ecocultural ethics
What normative assumptions underpin contemporary sustainability technologies and innovations, and what are the philosophical implications of juxtaposing these with other(ed) ‘ecocultural’ ethical frameworks?
Further summaries of the scope, content and intentions of Future Pasts are available as:
- our first project working paper, Future pasts? Sustainabilities in west Namibia - a conceptual framework for research (March 2016)
- a Pecha Kucha presentation (20 slides in 7 minutes) by Sian Sullivan at Bath Spa University (April 2016)