The potential for and politics of "just" urban sustainability transitions
My academic and advocacy interests lie in the domain of "just" sustainability transitions. I define these as the social, political and economic transformations required to create spaces that can ensure both social justice and ecosystem health.
As an activist-scholar with interdisciplinary training in political ecology, sustainable consumption studies and urban geography, I tackle this research agenda by studying the cultural and environmental politics of public policies and community initiatives that seek to 'green' urban environments, particularly in the mega-cities of emerging economies. Much of my research to date has been located in the city of Bangalore, India, where I conducted a community-engaged ethnographic study of bicycling and zero-waste movements.
I try to produce community-engaged scholarship that contributes towards a systemic transition to a more sustainable and just world for more people. As part of my ethnographic research in Bangalore, I worked with Hasirudala, a waste picker cooperative, and a number of neighborhood associations. While in the field, I cultivated enduring relationships with these communities and continue to collaborate with them on grant-writing, media, and outreach.
On Sustainability Transitions and Lifestyle Leapfrogging in Emerging economies
Biyani, N. and M. Anantharaman (2017) ‘Aligning Stakeholder Frames for Transition Management in Solid Waste: A Case Study of Bangalore’, International Development Policy, 8.2, DOI : 10.4000/poldev.2483. In this paper, my co-author Nivedita Biyani (now a PhD candidate at the University of Arizona) and I analyse the implementation of policy changes in Solid Waste Management (SWM) in Bangalore, discussing why the transition to better SWM has been very slow, and why the SWM Handling Rules of 2000 have been difficult to implement. We build on the literature on transition management (TM)—a tool offering a multilevel decision-making model to facilitate sustainability transitions (ST)—which has so far primarily been used and studied in Euro-American contexts. By incorporating an analysis of asymmetrical power relations between different actors, we attempt to make the TM framework more relevant to the global South.
Schroeder, P. and Anantharaman, M. (2016) "Lifestyle leapfrogging" in emerging economies: Enabling systemic shifts to sustainable consumption. Journal of Consumer Policy. Online First. http://doi:10.1007/s10603-016-9339-3
In this paper my co-author Patrick Schroeder of IDS and I develop Causal Loop Diagrams, a systems-thinking tool, to understand how market, policy and behavioral interventions can be combined to help urban consumers in India and China shift to more sustainable consumption practices from the out-set. We hope that this paper can highlight the importance of systems thinking and planning in sustainability, especially when combined with a focus on embedded power relations.
On the cultural politics of sustainable consumption in Bangalore, India
These papers have emerged out of my dissertation research studying the cultural and environmental politics of middle class environmental movements in Bangalore, India. I am particularly interested in the Relational Politics of sustainability in urban India, and both these pieces interrogate the cross-class interactions and relations mediated in hitherto understudied places like bicycle lanes and recycling centers.