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Activism within Academia

In light of the ongoing climate emergency and mass extinction, members of society are increasingly taking to public activism. In parallel, universities around the globe are urged to advance their sustainability commitments and take a leading role in the transition to a sustainable society.

In this recorded event from the 20th of April 2020, a panel of students and researchers explore the concept of activism within academia.

In the time of a global emergency, what can or should researchers and students do in order to bring about change - at their universities, in the lecture hall, and through their research and studies? What could activism within academia entail? Does it, can, or should it exist? If so, in what shape? Please see the recorded paneldiscussion by clicking on the image below:


Note: At 23:52, the Zoom Call was hijacked, so a segment of the recording has been cut out.

Key take aways from the paneldiscussion:

  • Sustainability science can be described as a kind of academic activism, given its transdisciplinary grounding and explicit mission to find solutions to societal problems.
  • The fundamental element of research to deepen understanding, rather than forming opinion, might hinder activism and its reliance on easily graspable messages by increasing the complexity of issues.
  • The possible impact from researchers is twofolded: Either through the presentation of the research or through practice as an employee.
  • By escaping the predicted structures of their programmes, e.g. by making sure to be invited to take part in developing course curricula, students may assume responsibility for their studies and what they want to learn in order to become positive change agents.
  • One role of academia in society may be to “slow down” - slow research could be a metaphor for researchers taking the time to discuss the ethical aspects of their research and pathways to impact.
  • When it comes to institutional activism, and how to advance the sustainability commitments of universities from an organisational point of view, student unions can play a crucial role.


  • Steven Curtis - PhD student, International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE)
  • Martin Jarenmark - Research engineer, Department of Geology
  • Milan Loose - Master student, International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE)
  • Kimberly Nicholas - Associate Professor, Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS)
  • Lisa Quartey - Bachelor student, Centre for Languages and Literature
  • Josefine Sarkez - PhD student, Division of Ethnology
  • Organizers: Wilhelm Wanecek, Josefine Henman, Lund Sustainability Forum

Lunds universitets Hållbarhetsforum
Sölvegatan 37, 223 62 Lund
contact [at] sustainability [dot] lu [dot] se

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