Dr. Josephine Chambers

Universitair docent
Urban Futures

“What sparks people to reframe their individual views of ‘success’ as collective failures of imagination? My work facilitates diverse societal actors to critically and creatively reimagine more just and sustainable futures that embrace our shared humanity.”

Josephine (Josie) Chambers is Assistant Professor in the Urban Futures Studio at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development. Her research develops and examines approaches to questioning so called ‘inevitable’ unjust futures and fostering collective imagination and agency towards more just and sustainable societies. She weaves together artistic, participatory, imaginative, decolonial, and political concepts and approaches to collaboratively explore possibilities for transformative changes with diverse societal groups. Josie shares recent experiments in social dreaming in her monthly blog Utopian Pulses.

A political ecologist by training, her doctoral research at the University of Cambridge dissected the politics of 'win-win' frames in nature conservation, and problematized common approaches to failure and learning. Her subsequent analysis of diverse initiatives co-producing research and action for sustainability transformations around the world identified six modes of co-production, and introduces the notion of co-productive agility as a way to navigate emerging tensions and power dynamics to enable sustainability transformations. Josie has since applied this in numerous settings, and is currently involved in the following research projects:

  • Sustainable African Urban Futures is a collaboration between the Urban Futures Studio and the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. The project seeks to build political and financial support for just and sustainable infrastructure across Africa, informed by a platform of diverse inspiring examples: infrahub.africa. In collaboration with the Collaborative Media Advocacy Platform – CMAP in Nigeria, the project also explores the power of artistic and imaginative audio-visual methodologies to create community-led infrastructure imaginaries.
  • Playing with the trouble examines how playful processes can enable people to externalize their worldview and navigate emerging tensions. We are building a library of around two dozen playful materials and activities that can support transdisciplinary teams to improve their collaboration in addressing societal challenges. Check out this interview.
  • Decolonizing mapping practices for sustainable island futures is a PhD project led by Cara Flores which examines the politics of mapping practices in two island settings linked to Dutch colonial history: Aruba and Penghu (Taiwan). The project examines the role of qualitative, artistic, speculative and technical approaches in decolonizing mapping practices, and will co-produce novel decolonial mapping and visualization practices in these two island settings.
  • Connecting local and global epistemologies to decolonize Dutch green mining in Latin America is a PhD project led by Darko Lagunas which focuses on unjust relationships between local and global actors involved in and impacted by green mining and the dramatic increase in demand for raw minerals. The project develops artistic and reciprocal collaborations with transdisciplinary academics, indigenous communities in Chile, artists, and ‘interpreters’ of nonhumans to include other ways of knowing and explore possibilities to transform extractive global-local relations.

In addition to facilitating processes of social transformation, Josie has designed and facilitated numerous dialogues and courses that enable the role of the researcher and University to better co-produce research with and for society. Her work facilitating dialogue around 71 Visions of how research connects to transformation in Wageningen University led her to create the award winning PhD course Transformative Research for Sustainability Challenges. This course supports students to reimagine their role in processes of societal transformation and will be offered for the third time spring of 2024 in collaboration with several partners.

Josie is deeply committed to her role as an educator to help students cultivate their critical and imaginative capacities to work towards more sustainable and just futures. She uses creative pedagogies to transform how the classroom feels, to leave students not only with critical knowledge, but also a sense of inspiration and agency to better navigate the politics of today in ways that are sensitive to issues of plurality and justice. For example, her newly created MSc elective Imagining the future for transformation experimented with turning the classroom into a social movement. Her courses have culminated with several creative student led outputs, such as the: Rural Utopias theatrical exhibition, Transformative research narratives, Creative Collectives for Utopia Zine, Stories of Systems Change Anthology, and Utopian & Dystopian Imaginaries exhibition.

Finally, Josie is also a musician, convening spaces for art-research explorations, and producing audio-visual outputs and performances. At the 14th International Sustainability Transitions Conference, Josie collaborated with electronic artist Drusnoise (Steve Williams) and musician Noor Noor to create an emotive and thought provoking musical opening to the conference. Previously, Josie and Noor produced what is believed to be the first musical abstract to be published in a top academic journal (in Global Environmental Change). She organizes dialogues at the intersection of music, imagination and sustainability, as well as 'the Copernicats' – an open jam group of 30+ musician-researchers across the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development.