Daniela Giudici

Sustainable for whom? Social vulnerability and ecological transition

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This article presents an overview of recent social science research engaged with the nexus between social vulnerability and ecological transition, in urban contexts of the Global North. Starting from a perspective attentive to ethnographic and qualitative methods, I review research on two main trends, intersected by multiple cross-cutting topics: (1) vulnerability as exposure to different ecological harms, produced by the overlapping effects of urban marginality and social inequalities, but also by the potential drawbacks of adaptation policies; (2) more or less «sustainable» knowledge and practices of different vulnerable subjects, migrants among them. The so-far overlooked experiences and perceptions of vulnerable subjects and groups can substantially enrich sustainability debates. At the same time, the article reflects on the necessity to go beyond a strictly Western-centered gaze, thus embodying in future research a thorough consideration of the complex combination of material elements and cultural meanings, in the social construction of key concepts such as «sustainability», «environment», «nature».


  • social vulnerability
  • ecological transition
  • migration
  • city
  • ethnography


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