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Culturing Sustainability Cookbook

Culturing Sustainability Cookbook

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Published by Caffyn Jesse

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Published by: Caffyn Jesse on Jul 10, 2010
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Practice-based research is rooted in an understanding of knowledge as situated in specific systems that produce and
constrain what is thinkable. Jenny Wolmark and Eleanor Gates-Stuart (2002) use the notion of situated knowledge to
refuse a bifurcation of theory and practice that would limit research to codified forms of academic inquiry. They write,
“One way forward in this debate is to think about research as a cultural practice that is generated by and through the
intersection with other cultural practices, and that knowledge can therefore be understood as ‘situated.’ ...Situated
knowledge is no longer decontextualized and removed from the social and cultural relations in which it is embedded.”

Caffyn Kelley

Culturing Sustainability● page 15

(p. 2, cited in Sullivan p. 85).

With a situated understanding, research cannot be conceptualized as an individual activity, nor produced as artifacts
separable from their contexts (see Lattuca, 2002, p. 713).We can abandon the fruitless pursuit of truth and error and
eschew techniques that facilitate the production of decontextualized “results.” We can instead follow Michel Foucault
in exploring an archaeological level of knowledge, where we adopt an attitude of permanent critique of both the present
(our historical era) and ourselves (how we are historically constituted as autonomous subjects). Foucault (1984a)
characterizes “the philosophical ethos appropriate to the critical ontology of ourselves” (p. 316) as “at one and the same
time the historical analysis of limits imposed on us and an experiment with the possibility of going beyond them” (p.

Proceeding from an understanding of knowledge and the world as “mutually and dynamically constitutive” (Heaney,
1995), I developed a model of “situated inquiry” for this project.The model describes research as an iterative process,
involving repeated circling from original questions through investigation, creation, discussion, reflection and
reformulation. It suggests moments of intersection and interrogation between self and other, self and world, the known
and the unknown, limit and power. Traversing this spiral path of inquiry allows me to incorporate new understandings,
deepen approaches and address challenges from critics and participants.

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