Taking the lead or following norms? Examining intersections of power in sustainability transitions in Swedish housing associations

In this paper, we explore narratives of sustainability in housing and everyday life, positing the home as an ‘opportunity space’ for sustainability transitions. Case studies of three Swedish housing associations provide empirical insights on how sustainability is understood and practiced among residents. Addressing aspects of power and problem framing in sustainability transitions, we analyse how sustainability engagements in the associations are shaped by intersecting discourses, power relations and norms relating to age, gender, class and ethnicity.

The analysis suggests that reflexivity on sustainability in the associations on one hand links to different sustainability approaches, which relate to assumptions regarding who can become engaged and the organisation of the associations’ work. On the other hand, narratives and practices of ‘doing sustainability’ are made sense of in different ways, where issues of for whom, the type of knowledge that is premiered, and the ‘upscaling’ of initiatives pose challenges for a more inclusive and transformative approach to sustainability in housing associations.

Taken together, this creates different conditions for sustainability transitions inhousing and everyday life, shaped both by norms of who and what is seen as sustainable, and by structures that outline the space for action for the associations and their residents.

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