Transsustain explores how philosophical and religious ideas and traditions are mobilized by peoples and groups in Asia as a way of responding to the environmental crisis, and searching for ways to promote change. In many Asian countries, activists, peasants, citizens from all ranges of society, and sometimes even politicians, have found inspiration in religious traditions such as Buddhism, Confucianism or Hinduism to develop visions of a more ecologically sustainable future. Likewise, several established religious organisations in Asia have initiated new activities aimed at solving local environmental problems or raising consciousness about them. Our project asks how such movements in Asia work in practice, what their local impacts are, and, not least, how they both challenge or adapt to national and international discourses and policies related to the climate-ecological crisis. Could it be that spiritually and religiously inspired environmental movements in Asia constitute an essential and largely overlooked contribution to realizing the common global goal of environmental sustainability? In Transsustain, we carry out in-depth case studies in China, Taiwan, Vietnam and India which will make it possible to analyze and assess the societal impact of such movements and, ultimately, their universal potential.
The project is based on anthropological and sociological fieldwork, along with media studies of, for instance, how the projects present themselves for the public. We have project members based in China and India, and members in Norway who periodically (and when possible) do fieldwork in China, India, Taiwan and Vietnam. All our scholars work on one or more specific cases through indepth research. We gather all scholars based in Norway, China and India once a month in on-line meetings, trying to connect our case studies, and develop common perspectives, understandings and, eventually, theories and general hypothesis.
Transsustain aims to explore the mobilization and recalibration of traditional Asian religio-philosophical ideas in response to the global environmental crisis. We begin with the observation that scholars, activists, and even politicians in India and China and Taiwan have found inspiration in traditional knowledge and in premodern texts and practices of, for instance, Daoist, Buddhist, Hindu, and Confucian traditions to envision more ecologically sustainable futures. We then ask how these transcendent ideas about the value of human-nature relations are put into practice among contemporary policy makers, religious institutions, and spiritual-environmental movements. Is it possible that spiritually and religiously inspired environmental movements in Asia constitute an essential and largely overlooked contribution to realizing the common global goal of sustainability? In Transsustain, we will carry out in-depth case studies in Asia that will make it possible to analyze and assess the societal impact of such movements and, ultimately, their universal potential.
The project is organized into three thematic work packages that explore such movements comparatively in India, China, Taiwan (possible one other place in Asia) and in a global universal perspective. A fourth work package is organized by the PI to facilitate collaboration among participants who come from different academic traditions and are at different stages in their careers, and to ensure dialogues with stakeholders outside the universities. The PI and other senior scholars in the project have decades of experience doing research in India and China/Taiwan, in close cooperation with Asian scholars and institutions. This will be crucial for the implementation of research in challenging political environments, and, not least, for supporting the development of the research competence and careers of participating junior scholars and across disciplines.