SAC # 75

An Idea in Search of a Word



TIME | 12 November 2009, 4pm onwards

LOCATION | CSAFE Seminar Room, , Dunedin

SPEAKER | Dr. Janet Stephenson


Global survival is ultimately about realising a different relationship with life on our planet – a relationship in which both biological and cultural diversity are valued. Increasingly, it is evident that this ‘difference’ must start at how we individually and collectively interact with our part of the world, and in strengthening our knowledge of and caring for the places we belong to. Yet we are still hampered by a way of talking about these interrelationships that requires us to talk in dualisms - the most powerful perhaps being the nature vs culture dualism – which tells us that nature is something ‘out there’ and the quality of being human is ‘in here’. Words control how we express ourselves and how we think. The emergence of the word ‘sustainability’ has opened the door to a way of thinking about the processes and goals needed for this ‘different relationship’. But, I argue, we are still missing a word to capture a way of thinking that dissolves the boundaries between nature and culture. This is a presentation of an idea-in-progress, and audience feedback is encouraged!

About the Speaker

Janet Stephenson joined CSAFE in mid-2008 as a Senior Research Fellow. She is a social scientist who is particularly interested in how people and communities interact with their environments, and the dynamics of societal and environmental change. Janet has a particular passion for working with people from other disciplines to develop new perspectives on thorny issues.
Her research interests are in three overlapping areas:

  • how and why landscapes are important to people and communities
  • the management of resources in which Maori have a particular interest
  • the societal implications of climate change and energy transition


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