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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Tracing sustainability meanings in Rosendal: interrogating an unjust urban sustainability discourse and introducing alternative perspectives

Backman, Malin; Pettersson, Katarina; Westberg, Lotten


Sustainability is a much debated concept, often criticised as ill-defined. While some argue it is time to leave sustainability behind, others defend the concept's potential to initiate change. In this article we depart from the potential of sustainability, while being aware that the term is often appropriated by discourses reproducing status quo and keeping existing injustices in place. We do so by studying the urban sustainability discourse reproducing certain types of sustainabilities in Rosendal, a developing urban district in Uppsala, Sweden. Guided by the "What's the problem represented to be" approach we analyse written and visual material, produced by Uppsala municipality and developers. Through the policy analysis we identify four intertwined meanings of sustainability: Everyone is included, It's all about aesthetics, Closeness to nature and Sustainability is easy. Together, these meanings shape the Sustainability in Rosendal discourse, which we argue does little to overcome existing injustices. We point towards the silences involved in the discourse and hold that the failure to question the growth-dependent economic system within which Rosendal is being developed, results in insignificant changes as opposed to just transformation. By building upon the notion of just sustainabilities, we outline a set of alternative perspectives, departing from coupling a pluralist understanding of justice with a feminist ethics of care, to open up for more emancipatory and transformative urban sustainability discourses.


Just sustainabilities; urban sustainability meanings; discourse; WPR; feminist ethics of care; Sweden

Published in

Local Environment
2024, Volume: 29, number: 4, pages: 415-432