Ascona Summer School 2023:
Critical sustainability engagements
The Ascona Summer School – launched by the Interface Commission in 2021 – continues facilitating a learning experience on anthropological engagements that dare to overcome the boundaries and limits of false dichotomies in our thinking and action. It again explored and scrutinized the assumptions underpinning our ideas about the world and how we apply them in various fields of study and practices. For the summer of 2023, the focus was on critical sustainability engagements that tackle urgent questions on social and ecological systems to support our biodiverse environments in the shared space we call Earth. It was about experiences, models, and experimentations on sustainable living for the present and, thus, the future. The Interface organizers, Peter Larsen and Doris Bacalzo, brought social science educators and social change advocates based in Switzerland, the US, India, and the UK together for conversations and joint exercises with students from the universities of Geneva, Zurich, Lucerne, the Graduate Institute, Leiden, and via Zoom, from Sikkim and Northern Bengal, India. The cooperation of the Universities of Geneva, Zürich, and Lucerne made this year’s summer school possible. Again, the continuing generous support of the Centro Incontri Umani - Ascona, founded by Angela Hobart, allows a compassionate pedagogical approach to thrive in the quest for transformative engagements.
Students in their BA and MA studies came from various backgrounds and degree programs, such as Social and Cultural Anthropology; Anthropology and Sociology; Social Anthropology and Comparative Literature; Anthropology and Environmental Sciences; Sustainable Societies and Social Change; Innovation, Human Development and Sustainability; and Latin American Studies, Politics and Society. Everyone explored the challenges and shared inspirations through case studies and examples of engagements. Students reflected on their interests relating to decoloniality, racism, gender violence and feminist approaches, educational materials and approaches in schools, consumption and energy transition for the future, environmental protection, and multimodal approaches and exercises. Outputs of the activities include group performances on communicating and engaging issues of racism and short films produced and performed by the students that illustrate the interconnected themes of their interests and projects for critical sustainable engagement.