IDEAS Lecture | 24 May 2017

© Sahakian

© Sahakian

Dr. Marlyne Sahakian will be the speaker of the next IDEAS Lecture, entitled "The Bearable Lightness of Solar Modules". It will take place on Wednesday 29 March 2017 at 12:30 pm in the IDEAS space (LE 0 10).

Cultural theories of consumption have much to say about objects that are highly symbolic, full of meaning, and conveyors of social status. Yet how to comprehend the many energy-intensive consumption patterns that are far from symbolic? Turning on the lights, making toast, or sleeping in a comfortable indoor microclimate, for example, are some of the mundane activities of everyday life that remain unaccounted for in cultural approaches to consumption. As of late, the “social practice” turn in sustainable consumption studies has created a new space for theorizing and exploring the using-up of natural resources in relation to three elements of a practice: people and their dispositions; social norms and regulations; as well as the material dimension of consumption – infrastructure, spaces, and their configuration. Through the social practice lens, I propose an overview of two research sites in relation to energy resources (and specifically, electricity): Metro Manila, and the interrelation between social practices, buildings and artificially cooled microclimates; and Geneva, considering the multiplying of appliances in affluent homes. The social practice framework reveals the significance of built spaces and how this contributes to “material lock-in”, but also the influence of norms and expectations – or normality – which contributes to what I have termed “social lock-in”.

Dr Marlyne Sahakian is a Senior Researcher in the Faculty of Geosciences and the Environment at the University of Lausanne, and will be joining the Sociology Department at the University of Geneva as Assistant Professor as of August 2017. She is currently coordinating national and European research projects on household energy and food consumption, working with interdisciplinary teams. Her research interest is in understanding natural resource consumption patterns and practices, in relation to environmental promotion and social equity, and identifying opportunities for transitions towards more sustainable societies. She writes regularly for journals in the field of sustainability, as well as food and energy consumption. Her recent work includes a book titled Keeping Cool in Southeast Asia: energy consumption and urban air-conditioning (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) and an edited volume titled Food Consumption in the City: Practices and patterns in urban Asia and the Pacific (Routledge Studies in Food, Society & the Environment, 2016). She is also a founding member of SCORAI Europe, a network in the field of sustainable consumption research and action.

The axis Integrated Design, Architecture and Sustainability (IDEAS) is a joint initiative of both the Interdisciplinary Laboratory of Performance-Integrated Design (LIPID) and Laboratory of Architecture and Sustainable Technologies (LAST) of the ENAC School at EPFL. It aims to address an increased integration of the various issues related to sustainable architecture within the framework of the Master Cycle in Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, as well as the Doctoral program Architecture & Science of the city (EDAR).

A light lunch will be served during the presentation. For logistic aspects, participants are kindly requested to register via this link before Monday 24 May noon.