“I have never been entirely sure quite what sustainability is!” An ethnographic case study of MyAirport’s desire of becoming more ‘sustainable’

Paul W Chan, Vivian Liang

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

    Abstract

    The concept of sustainability has gained prominence in policy, practice and academic discourses. Much attention has been placed on rationalising attitudinal and behavioural change, and developing prescriptive tools, for securing a more sustainable future. However, successes have been limited. Inspired by growing research interest in locating the emergent and shifting, socio-material context of ‘sustainability’, the study presented in this article is based on an ethnographic case study of an international airport – MyAirport – and its ongoing efforts in becoming more ‘sustainable’. Through over 800 hours of participant observations yielding over 180 pages of field notes, and numerous formal interviews and informal conversations with participants at MyAirport, the multiple ways in which ‘sustainability’ is made relevant at MyAirport are traced. Competing tensions between various conceptualisations of ‘growth’ and ‘sustenance’ have also been articulated. Adopting Foucauldian notions of ethical conduct to interpret the findings, the conclusions highlight how prior knowledge shaped by education and professional knowledge serves to reinforce notions of the participants’ existence at MyAirport, i.e. to operate an air transportation system seamlessly. Consequently, ‘sustainability’ fails to capture the imagination of stakeholders as a reasonable, moral code of conduct. Implications for policy, research and practice are also discussed, with particular emphasis placed on shifting the attention away from producing codes of conducts, to exploring how individuals find pleasure in ‘sustainable’ and ‘sustainability’ work.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationhost publication
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2012
    EventEngineering Project Organization Conference (EPOC) 2012 - Rheden, The Netherlands
    Duration: 10 Jul 201213 Jul 2012
    http://www.epossociety.org/EPOC2012/

    Conference

    ConferenceEngineering Project Organization Conference (EPOC) 2012
    CityRheden, The Netherlands
    Period10/07/1213/07/12
    Internet address

    Keywords

    • airports, ethical subject, Foucault, relevance, sustainability

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