Art and (Un-)Sustainability

Project: Dissertation project

Project participants


A few words about Sacha Kagan’s PhD project:
Up to now, social research on the arts in the context of sustainability has most often limited itself either to the short-sighted analysis of art as a communication medium (in environmental science departments) or to the art worlds-centric topic of sustaining the arts. The motivations and goals of this PhD research reach beyond these limitations:
… To identify cultures of sustainability, in contrast to a predominant culture of unsustainability. This exploration will limit itself to a general overview and attention will thereafter be focused on to what extent and why these dimensions of cultures of (un-)sustainability may be present in the arts.
… To explore the roles of the arts (recognized as relevant areas in the development of western culture) in relationship to these conflicting cultures in the contemporary context of Europe and the US. Attention will be focused on art worlds agents (and especially artists) as change agents – understood as entrepreneurs in conventions (Kagan 2004, 2005).

The thesis and the oral defense (in March 2011) were graded 'Summa Cum Laude'. The final doctoral thesis will be published in July 2011 by transcript Verlag under the title: "Art and Sustainability: Connecting Patterns for a Culture of Complexity".

More about the research theme:
Related to his PhD project, Sacha Kagan coordinated the “sustainability stream” at the 2007 conference of the Arts Research Network of the European Sociological Association, held in Lueneburg: Conference website [ ]
In the wake of that groundbreaking conference, he founded and serves as coordinator at the International Network Cultura21 for cultures of sustainability: Website [ ]
Following up on the 2007 ESA Arts conference, Sacha Kagan and Volker Kirchberg edited a book with a selection from some of the most engaging contributions at the conference. Entitled Sustainability: a new frontier for the arts and cultures, this publication was released by VAS (Frankfurt) in 2008.


Research outputs