Control, care, and conviviality in the politics of technology for sustainability

Saurabh Arora, Barbara Van Dyck, Divya Sharma, Andy Stirling

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    28 Citations (Scopus)
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    This article discusses currently neglected distinctions between control, care, and conviviality in the politics of technology for sustainability. We conceptualize control as the ambition to maintain fictitious borders between hierarchically ordered categories such as subjects and objects. This ambition is materialized into a wide range of Modern technological innovations, including genome editing and deep sea mining. Contrasting with control, we conceptualize values of care that constitute socio-technical practices where connections are prioritized over categories and hierarchy is countered with egalitarian commitment. In caring practices, objects are thus treated as subjects, often within political contexts that are dominated by ambitions to control. Building on care, we explore hopes for conviviality as mutualistic autonomy and decolonial self-realization to orient plural socio-technical pathways for moving beyond Modernity. We argue that such pathways are crucial for democratic transformations to sustainability. We illustrate our concepts using two brief case studies of agricultural developments. The first case discusses the politics of control in agricultural biotechnologies in Belgium. The second case reports on care within rural people's coping strategies in a south Indian "green revolution" landscape laden with control. In conclusion, we emphasize the need to situate attempted materializations of control, care, and conviviality in specific historical junctures. Situated understandings of the interplay between control, care, and conviviality can help realize sustainability that does not reproduce the centralizing, control-driven logic of Modern technocratic development.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)247-262
    Number of pages16
    JournalSustainability: Science, Practice and Policy
    Issue number1
    Early online date22 Oct 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2020

    Bibliographical note

    2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group on behalf of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS)

    This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (,
    which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


    The work of the first, third, and fourth authors was supported by the UK ESRC-DFID Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research [ES/N014456/1]. The work of the second author was supported by the European Union?s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under a Marie Sklodowska Curie Action [707807].


    • (de)coloniality
    • Modernity
    • care
    • conviviality
    • domination
    • innovation

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geography, Planning and Development
    • Environmental Science(all)


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