Headline: The algebra of the protagonist: sustainability, normativity and storytelling

As advances in scientific, technological, economic and policy dimensions of sustainability challenges fail to produce widespread transformative change, an awareness of their ultimate insufficiency grows. In response, sustainability scholarship and activism are increasingly focused on sustainability’s normative dimensions, identity, belief, meaning, purpose, etc. With this recognition comes a growing turn towards narrative as the expressive vehicles of our normativity. In this paper, we aim to build on (Fløttum and Gjerstand. 2017. ‘Narratives in Climate Change Discourse.’ WIREs climate change. 8.) efforts to develop more precise and structured relationships between sustainability and narratives by looking at what the field can learn from storytelling more specifically. We explore this first by exploring story structure as our society’s ubiquitous theory of change; and second, how the story constructs its protagonist to activate the transformative dynamics inherent in story structure. We then conclude by exploring the implications these observations have for sustainability research more broadly.

Publication Year
Publication Type
Academic Articles

Maggs, D., & Chabay, I. (2022). The algebra of the protagonist: sustainability, normativity and storytelling. Innovation: the European journal of social science research, 36(1), 59-70. doi:10.1080/13511610.2022.2062304.

Projects involved
Knowledge, Learning and Societal Change Alliance (KLASICA)