Dr Mariagrazia Portera (University of Zagreb / IASH): Habitual behaviour and the environment: Why aesthetics matters
What is a habit? How do our habits, (including ‘environmental’ habits, that is those habits that specifically refer to and have to do with our relationship to the surrounding environment) stabilize and spread over our individual lifetime? What is the role of the aesthetic dimension and the arts in these processes? Despite much excellent work carried out so far in the field of the environmental humanities, scholars examining the ‘human factor’ in the current environmental crisis have not yet fully explored two aspects that are both fundamental: 1) the role of habitual practices or dispositions (habits or habitus) in human life, how they develop and spread and how they may promote or hamper the adoption of pro-environmental behaviour; 2) the constitutive role played by the aesthetic dimension — which is directly related to (but not entirely coincidental with) the artistic dimension — in the process of habit formation and stabilisation, as well as the more general significance of the aesthetic dimension and the arts in the production and transmission of cultural contents within human communities. My research project will address these questions by examining: 1) the significance of habits for human behaviour; 2) the modes of development and ways of transmission of human (environmental) habits; 3) the interrelationship between human habits and the aesthetic/artistic dimension of human life, possibly also through the analysis of a selected number of relevant case studies concerning environmental art and aesthetic experience. It will be shown that the notion of 'habit' (located at the crossroads between sociology, neurosciences, anthropology, cultural evolution, psychology and aesthetics) has the potential to re-orient the current debate on the environmental crisis towards a new global/local environmental education project.
[IASH Work in Progress talk]