Harvard Professor Sheila Jasanoff speaker at Pathways to Sustainability conference

Unmodern imaginaries: infrastructures for a sustainable world

Sheila Jasanoff
(Credit: EuroScience Open Forum)

A pioneer in her field, Prof Sheila Jasanoff calls for a new imaginary in the transition to sustainability. She will give a keynote lecture on ‘unmodern imaginaries’ at the Pathways to Sustainability conference on 24 January 2019.

“The transition to sustainability is often imagined as a singular process, as seamless and universal as the rise of industry and capitalism that created threats to human survival on a limited planet,” says Sheila Jasanoff. She points at two main visions on the transition to sustainability. “In one dominant imagination, the transition will require turning the clock far back, toward a future that embraces the preindustrial past and the virtues of smallness. In a sharply contrasting vision, the transition will require a giant leap forward, a technological moonshot that will solve the problems of clean energy or food scarcity once for all and everywhere.”

A new imaginary

Nevertheless, how useful are these totalizing visions to achieve a more sustainable world? According to Jasanoff, sustainability may call for a new imaginary of the unmodern. An imaginary that embraces and reconciles binaries that have been artificially locked into non-intersecting packages: big vs. small, disruption vs. conservation, technological vs. ecological.


Approaching sustainability from the standpoint of infrastructures, Jasanoff will argue that we may need to disaggregate the scales of technological, economic, legal, and ethical interventions to generate creative pathways to a sustainable Earth.

Sustainability may call for a new imaginary of the unmodern

Prof Sheila Jasanoff
Keynote speaker Pathways to Sustainability conference

About Sheila Jasanoff

Sheila Jasanoff is Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School. Her work explores the role of science and technology in the law, politics, and policy of modern democracies. Jasanoff wrote more than 120 scientific articles and chapters and several books including The Fifth Branch, Science at the Bar, Designs on Nature, and The Ethics of Invention.

Jasanoff is the founder and director of the Science and Technology Studies Program at Harvard; previously, she was founding chair of the Science and Technology Studies Department at Cornell. She has held distinguished visiting appointments at leading universities in Europe, Asia, Australia, and the US. She holds AB, JD, and PhD degrees from Harvard, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Twente.


Pathways to Sustainability conference

Jasanoff will give her keynote lecture at the all-day Pathways to Sustainability conference in TivoliVredenburg on 24 January 2019. The conference is free of charge and open to anyone interested in the theme.

Stay informed

Registration will open in November 2018. Stay informed via the website or the newsletter of Pathways to Sustainability.

Sustainability at Utrecht University

Spanning many different disciplinary fields from the humanities, social and natural sciences, Utrecht University's research theme Pathways to Sustainability promotes transdisciplinary approaches with external partners to take up an active role in furthering a more sustainable society.