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Journal Article

Towards a relational paradigm in sustainability research, practice, and education


Walsh,  Zack
IASS Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies Potsdam;


Böhme,  Jessica
IASS Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies Potsdam;

Wamsler,  Christine
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Walsh, Z., Böhme, J., Wamsler, C. (2020 online): Towards a relational paradigm in sustainability research, practice, and education. - Ambio: a journal of human environment.

Cite as: https://publications.iass-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_5070898
Relational thinking has recently gained increasing prominence across academic disciplines in an attempt to understand complex phenomena in terms of constitutive processes and relations. Interdisciplinary fields of study, such as science and technology studies (STS), the environmental humanities, and the posthumanities, for example, have started to reformulate academic understanding of nature-cultures based on relational thinking. Although the sustainability crisis serves as a contemporary backdrop and in fact calls for such innovative forms of interdisciplinary scholarship, the field of sustainability research has not yet tapped into the rich possibilities offered by relational thinking. Against this background, the purpose of this paper is to identify relational approaches to ontology, epistemology, and ethics which are relevant to sustainability research. More specifically, we analyze how relational approaches have been understood and conceptualized across a broad range of disciplines and contexts relevant to sustainability to identify and harness connections and contributions for future sustainability-related work. Our results highlight common themes and patterns across relational approaches, helping to identify and characterize a relational paradigm within sustainability research. On this basis, we conclude with a call to action for sustainability researchers to codevelop a research agenda for advancing this relational paradigm within sustainability research, practice, and education.