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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

(Un)sustainable everyday practices Sociomateriality shaping sustainability in an Urban district

Backman, Malin


Urban areas are often seen as central sites for sustainability transformations, and in many parts of the world, cities are striving to be recognised for their sustainability initiatives. An example of a new urban district with a sustainability profile is Rosendal, in Uppsala, Sweden. Based on semi-structured interviews supported by participant-generated photographs, I let the everyday practices residents of this district associate with sustainability be the starting point for studying the different ways in which they understand and enact (un)sustainability. My analysis builds upon a practice theoretical framework, viewing practice as mundane, routinised behaviour shaped by 'materials', 'competences' and 'meanings'. By focussing on a set of practices brought forth by the interview participants, namely, growing vegetables, showering and cycling, I pay specific attention to the different roles of materials and how these are co-constitutive of the sociomaterial practices of which they form part. Based on the analysis, I contend that the sociomaterial urban assemblage enables and restricts what comes to count as sustainable, as well as which (un)sustainable practices are performed in everyday life. Further, the ability to think of alternative ways of enacting sustainability in everyday life is both enabled and restricted by present practices due to the situated nature of imagination. If urban districts are to play a central role in sustainability transformations, I argue that living environments should be planned in ways so that new ideas and practices for enacting sustainability may emerge.


Everyday practices; practice theory; sustainable consumption; Urban district; Sweden; photo-elicitation; sociomateriality

Published in

Journal of Consumer Culture
2023, Volume: 24, number: 1, pages: 100-119

    Sustainable Development Goals

    Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

    Publication identifier


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