Sustainability Science

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 379–398 | Cite as

Let’s play transformations! Performative methods for sustainability

Review Article


Coping with global environmental change demands new forms of civic engagement and interaction able to transform passive audiences attending to the drama of unsustainability into committed actors for sustainability. This entails linking diverse sources of scientific knowledge with personal experiences, emotion and ethical judgments. In this paper, we assess the potential as well as the limitations of innovative theatre-based participatory tools and methods aimed at supporting sustainability learning and agent transformation. To this aim, we first review a series of experiences using theatrical performance and introduce the notion of performative methods. Second, we assess to what extent these new approaches can be of relevance in environmental action research and sustainability science, practice and learning. Finally, we list a series of key research questions to further guide methodological innovation in this promising area of sustainability science and practice. Our findings show a growing and successful use of such methodologies worldwide, both in academia and in implementation-oriented approaches. An increasing number of topics and complexity is being embraced by these methods, offering a fertile ground for innovation in participatory sustainability science.


Applied drama Performative methods Global environmental change Sustainability learning Theatre Transformation 



This research was supported by the Grant (FI-DGR-2011) from the Catalan Government. We would like to thank Katharine N. Farrell for her reflections and for providing the opportunity for developing the theatrical workshop at ICTA, as well as Arnim Scheidel, Fiona Thomas and Ilan Chabay for their helpful feedback. Also special thanks to all the participants of ICTA’s workshop, and to Inma Pascual and Óscar F. Vega, for their fantastic work as co-facilitators. J. David Tàbara would like to acknowledge the Knowledge, Learning and Societal Change project (, the support of the Global Climate Forum ( and of Carlo C. Jaeger in particular. Finally, we would like to thank the insightful comments of the anonymous reviewers which greatly helped us to improve the final text.

Supplementary material

11625_2014_245_MOESM1_ESM.docx (38 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 37 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA)Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB)Cerdanyola del VallésSpain
  2. 2.Global Climate Forum (

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