Academic Papers and Books

The t-learning transformative knowledge network is producing academic papers and books on t-learning. Here we share links to useful academic papers produced in our TKN that can inform t-learning research.  Some of these can be downloaded as open access papers, and other can be obtained from the journals or books concerned.

Co-designing research on transgressive learning in times of climate change

By Heila Lotz-Sisitka, Million Belay Ali, Gibson Mphepo, Martha Chaves, Thomas Macintyre, Tichaona Pesanayi, Arjen Wals, Mutizwa Mukute, David Kronlid, Duc Tuan Tran, Deepika Joon and Dylan McGarry

Published in: Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2016, 20:50–55

This paper reflects on the epistemological context for the co-design of a research programme on transformative, transgressive learning emerging at the nexus of climate change, water and food security, energy and social justice. It outlines a sequence of learning actions that we, as a group of collaborating partners in a Transformative Knowledge Network (TKN) undertook to co-design a research programme, firstly in situ in various case study contexts, and secondly together across case study contexts. Finally, it provides some reflections and learning points.

Transformative, transgressive social learning: rethinking higher education pedagogy in times of systemic global dysfunction

By Heila Lotz-Sisitka, Arjen EJ Wals, David Kronlid and Dylan McGarry

Published in:  Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2015, 16:73–80

In this paper we review four streams of emerging transformative, transgressive learning research and praxis in the sustainability sciences that appear generative of transformative praxis. The paper critiques the current tendency in sustainability science and learning to rely on resilience and adaptive capacity building and argues that in order to break with maladaptive resilience of unsustainable systems it is essential to strengthen transgressive learning and disruptive capacity-building.

The Listening Train: A Collaborative, Connective Aesthetics Approach to Transgressive Social Learning

By Dylan McGarry

Published in: Southern African Journal of Environmental Education 2015, 31: 8-21

This paper shares a personal iterative retrospective of a series of expansive social learning processes that were collaboratively developed through practice-based enquiry on a ‘Climate Train’ mobile social learning platform across 17 South African towns/contexts. The social learning process involved a collaborative social movement of ‘cultural practitioners’ including visual artists, poets, film-makers, theatre-makers, guerrilla-gardeners, musicians, facilitators, and educational researchers. These collaborators created new ‘connective aesthetic’ social spaces for dialogue, empathy and exchange. The research reflects on how we might go about establishing new capacities for global ecological citizenship in times of climate change.

Death and Rebirth of Atlántida: The Role of Social Learning in Bringing about Transformative Sustainability Processes in an Ecovillage

By Martha Chaves, Thomas Macintyre, Eliana Riano, Jorge Calero, Arjen Wals

Published in:  Southern African Journal of Environmental Education 2015, 31: 22-32

This paper explores the role of social learning in bringing about transformative sustainability processes among individuals and communities. Drawing on 12 months of action-oriented research and including contributions by two co-researchers from the community studied, this paper explores the triple-loop learning process of an ecovillage in Colombia called Atlántida. The findings show that disruptions in the community provided the opportunity for members to enter into a process of deep learning, because they were willing to reflect collectively on their process despite differences in world views, ethics and leadership among members.

Elements of Social Learning Supporting Transformative Change

By David Lindley

Published in:  Southern African Journal of Environmental Education 2015, 31: 50-64

The body of literature on social learning is enormous, with differently framed ontologies and epistemologies aligned to multiple perspectives of learning in a social context. This paper highlights the need to be aware of these multiple perspectives, and draws on the work of Lotz-Sisitka, Mukute and Belay (2012) to argue that there is a need to understand, and engage deeply with, the antecedent perspectives on social learning. This can help to avoid ontological collapse in social-learning research and in environmental education research and practice. The paper provides a broad-based understanding of transformative social learning.

Book:  Critical realism, environmental learning and social-ecological change

Edited by Leigh Price and Heila Lotz-Sisitka

London, Routledge 2016, ISBN: 978-1-138-02519-6 (hbk); ISBN: 978-1-315-66089-9 (ebk)

This book introduces a range of applied critical realist environmental education research studies that address the question: “How can we facilitate learning processes that will lead to the flourishing of the Earth’s people and ecosystems in more socially just ways?”. Offering contributions from a small but growing community of researchers working with critical realism in the global South, this book will be of interest to students, scholars and practitioners in the areas of environmental education, sustainability, transformative learning, development and the philosophy of critical realism in general.

Balancing the Warrior and Empathic Activist: The role of the ‘Transgressive’ Researcher in Environmental Education,

By Thomas Macintyre and Martha Chaves

This paper explores the complex issues involved in carrying out participatory and performative research in the area of activist environmental education, and argues that the key capacities of reflection, empathy, and courage are imperative in order for the ‘transgressive researcher’ to address deep-seated socioecological challenges.

It may be useful to some of you as it provides the 5 characteristics of Transgressive Learning that we developed in the May 2016 T-Learning meeting in South Africa, with examples from the Colombian context

Popular Publications, Films, Podcasts and Webinars

The t-learning transformative knowledge network also produces popular publications, films and other on-line resources.  We will also share useful links to associated popular publications and materials that can inform t-learning research in times of climate change.

Video: Mapping for Change

This video demonstrates an approach to t-learning in community settings which makes use of three dimensional (3D) participatory mapping. This counter-hegemonic mapping technique is used here by Million Belay and colleagues from MELCA Ethiopia to capture indigenous heritage and landscape knowledge, knowledge of bio-cultural diversity and to share inter-generational knowledge and learning. This facilitated a process of collective decision making amongst farmers, greater ownership of landscape knowledge and inter-generational co-operation in the Oromiya Region in Ethiopia, one of the case study sites in the t-learning programme.

Video: Transformations to Sustainability Programme

This video, published by the ISSC in March 2015 provides an introductory overview of the Transformations to Sustainability Programme, and its objectives. It explains why a new kind of co-engaged research is necessary in society if we are to transform to sustainability. It is from these early roots that the t-learning programme was borne, during the seed funding phase. Through its novel transformative knowledge networks, we will seek to highlight the fundamental innovative processes of social transformations needed to secure effective, equitable, and durable solutions to questions of global change and sustainability.

Video: CASA – Council of Sustainable Settlements of the Americas Columbia

This video shares insight into one of the t-learning programme case studies which is focusing on the development of sociocracy via eco-village network formation and actions. In this video Margarita Zethelius, a Colombian conservation biologist, provides an overview of the CASA network and its activities. This Latin American network includes not only ecovillages, but also permaculture projects, Transition Towns, econeighborhoods, ecocaravans, and other environmental initiatives.  This video shows that transitions to sustainability involve t-learning processes.

Webinar: Meet the three ISSC Transformative Knowledge networks on webinar

Find out more about how the networks intend to contribute to transformative change towards sustainability and social justice, and how they’re carrying out solutions-oriented research involving co-design and co-production. Published on 6 July 2015, the Transformative Knowledge Networks that have been funded under the ISSC’s Transformations to Sustainability programme participated in a discussion on solutions-oriented research in practice. Contributors included Adrian Ely, Transformative pathways to sustainability: learning across disciplines, contexts and cultures (PATHWAYS) network; STEPS Centre (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability), United Kingdom; Ashish Kothari, Academic-Activist Co-Produced Knowledge for Environmental Justice (ACKnowl-EJ) network; Kalpavriksh Environment Action group, India; and Heila Lotz-Sisitka, Transgressive Social Learning for Social-Ecological Sustainability in times of Climate Change (T-LEARNING); Rhodes University, South Africa. The discussion was moderated by Susi Moser, Senior Adviser to the Transformations to Sustainability programme.

Video: Climate Fluency Exchange

This video demonstrates an approach to t-learning in public spaces where participatory engagement can lead to knowledge exchange and co-creation of shared learning outcomes in impromptu spaces and places. The video was created as part of the ‘Climate Fluency Exchange’ which was an activity of the COPART network, and was developed by one of the t-learning postdoctoral scholars (Dylan McGarry) as part of his PhD research.

MSP guide T-learning

Booklet: The MSP Guide on how to design and facilitate multi-stakeholder partnerships

Developed by Herman Brouwer and Jim Woodhill with Minu Hemmati, Karèn Verhoosel and Simone van Vugt from the Centre for Innovation and Development at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, this booklet provides theoretical and practical guidance on how to design processes for facilitating social learning and innovation amongst multi-stakeholder partnerships. It offers practical ways forward in these types of situations, and in many others. How to design, facilitate and manage these partnerships is what this book is all about. It provides insight into dealing with the underlying dynamics of human systems, power relations, conflict, and teamwork. It offers facilitators and stakeholders in partnerships a set of principles and conceptual models to help inspire creative and critical processes of change.

Video: Seeds of Sovereignty

This video shows the importance of social learning, trust and respect for local and indigenous knowledge in enabling seed diversity and food sovereignty. This video shows how African farming communities and social movement organisations are reviving traditional seed diversity across the continent, and resisting mounting corporate pressure to use industrialised seed and farming methods. The film shows the power of multi-levelled learning interactions and learning networks – at grassroots level amongst farmers, farmers associations and amongst wider social movement networks such as the African Food Sovereignty Alliance, African Biodiversity Network and the Gaia Foundation.  The film was made by the Gaia Foundation, the African Biodiversity Network, MELCA Ethiopia and GRAIN.

What we are reading

T-learning researchers and co-learners are also avid readers. They seek inspiration from a wide variety of texts, literature and academic works. Here we share some of what we are reading, with a short explanation of how the work is informing our t-learning enquiries.

‘Nomadic Theory – The portable Rosi Braidotti’ By Rosi Braidotti

Nomadic Theory – The portable Rosi Braidotti

By Rosi Braidotti

Published by Columbia University Press, 2012

This book is essential reading for grasping a potent theoretical framework for why transgressive and transformative learning in needed in our world today. Rosi Braidotti gives us a deft history lesson about how our thinking as academics shapes the world that we are in and challenges to go beyond critique and deconstructive thinking towards a way a thinking that is generative, creative and affirmative in the face of the ‘injustice and vulgarity’ that we face in these times.

Recommended by Injairu Kulundu, Transgressive learning PhD scholar, co-learner and practitioner

‘Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom’ By bell hooks

Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

By bell hooks

Published by Routledge, 1994

This book reads in many ways like the diary of a teacher who at every turn is challenged to think carefully about her praxis and how the very way that she engages with her students invites them to collectively traverse gender, racial and class boundaries. She demonstrates what an internal dialogue might look like for practitioners who want to create work that invites co- learners to be brave enough to move past the ossified trajectories of the status quo.

Recommended by Injairu Kulundu, Transgressive learning PhD scholar, co-learner and practitioner


Development Practitioners and Social Process: Artists of the Invisible

By Allan Kaplan

Published by Pluto Press, 2001

This book is a poetic rejoinder on how we can really slow down and zoom into the quiet art of social process. It offers us many reflective practices that can help us be more present as practitioners and co- learners as we trace our way forward. Kaplan gives us a wonderful resource that speaks to the heart of what it means to create a fertile centre for our work that can gently hold the questions we have about the present and most importantly to be patient enough to listen to what we feel called to create in the future.

Recommended by Injairu Kulundu, Transgressive learning PhD scholar, co-learner and practitioner


A Time For New Dreams

By Ben Okri

Published by Rider, 2011

This book is a must have for anyone devoted to creating new trajectories in their work. Okri supports our endeavours by painting a visceral picture of a world that is worthy of our longing. In this book you can hear see these visions of the future booming through his potent words. He is bold enough to use a language that rouses us past the lethargy and lack of vision we currently see in the world. Most importantly he brings this book home by asking questions about what the role of the academy is in creating this future and what education should look like in the future. He gives us a horizon to steer towards as we gather our strengths and resources as practitioners in the present.

Recommended by Injairu Kulundu, Transgressive learning PhD scholar, co-learner and practitioner


Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing

By Miranda Fricker

Published by Oxford University Press, 2009

In this exploration of new territory between ethics and epistemology, Miranda Fricker argues that there is a distinctively epistemic type of injustice, in which someone is wronged specifically in their capacity as a knower. This book calls all educators and co-learners to give attention to the ethical dimensions of epistemic practices. To do this, she argues that the focus must shift to a greater consciousness of the negative space that is epistemic injustice, where reason and social power are entangled with other forms of social injustice. She calls us to listen in co-learning, and to engage in respectful silence in order to hear better each other’s epistemic experiences and contributions.

Recommended by Heila Lotz-Sisitka, co-learner and t-learning researcher and scholar


Studies in Expansive Learning: Learning what is not yet there

By Yrjö Engeström

Published by Cambridge University Press, 2016

This new book by Yrjö Engeström from the Centre of Research on Development, Activity and Learning at Helsinki University affirms the importance of giving attention to the processes of learning and how they emerge in multi-actor settings in the context of activity. He sees expansive learning as the central mechanism of transformation in societal practices, activity and institutions. The book provides a conceptual and practical toolkit for creating and analyzing expansive learning processes with the help of formative interventions in workplaces, schools and communities. It also considers some of the new challenges and possibilities for the learning sciences as people seek to learn to engage with complex and rapidly changing objects such as those dealt with in the sustainability sciences.

Recommended by Heila Lotz-Sisitka, co-learner and t-learning researcher and scholar

Pedagogy of process: Letters to Guinea Bissau

By Paulo Freire

Published by Bloomsbury Academic, 2016

This book documents Freire’s practice-based reflections on careful and cautionary sharing of ideas across continents. A rich introduction by Freire precedes the letters he wrote to Mario Cabral, the commissioner of education and culture in Guinea Bissau and his colleagues, between 1975 and 1976. By 1973, more than half of Guinea then constituted newly liberated zones, ruled by popular democratic structures. These letters present Freire’s liberatory praxis in support of the ongoing revolution in Guinea Bissau. The book’s introduction as well as his initial letters, foregrounds the importance of “authentic help”: experiences from other places can be shared and must be shared however they cannot be transplanted or imitated. The act of knowing involves the interrelated roles of “creator, recreator and reinventor” otherwise, it constitutes an ideology of domination. Thus, lessons learned in one context are relevant in another context to the degree that they are reinvented. Letter 7 includes detailed instructions for Freire’s process of dialogue. The letter walks the reader through the collection of generative themes to the representation of codes. Freire’s generative code is the object that ‘can be known’ or a discourse to be read, in dialogue with others. This constitutes collective process of learning to uncover deeper structural contradictions. The 60 page introduction including pictures, and the letters which follow constitute a rich account of Freire’s careful praxis as it crosses over the continents.

Recommended by Anna James, PhD student at the Environmental Learning Research Centre, RU

Staying with the trouble

By Donna Haraway

If there was ever a manifesto for transgressive learning in a hot and difficult time, Donna Haraway’s new book “Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene” would be it. Haraway offers provocative new ways to reconfigure our relations to the earth and all its inhabitants, in troubling times. At the heart of this book is this concept of ‘staying with the trouble’: not shying away from the hot, sticky and oftentimes smelly messes surrounding climate change and the nexus issues intertwined within the ‘trouble’ of a warming planet; Haraway embraces this troubling space, and takes inspiration from the the “Cthonic” ones, the small creepy crawly critters “replete with tentacles, feelers, digits, cords, whiptails, spider legs, and very unruly hair” that turn the soil and oceans in into life-giving domains. They are the ultimate transgressive and transformative practitioners who, like alchemists, turn shit into gold. In so doing Haraway opens up our thinking to see troubling spaces, places and processes as rich learning and transforming opportunities, without romanticizing or simplifying the complexities of the trouble. She does this by theoretically and methodologically driving her thesis with the signifier “SF” which could stand for anything from Speculative Fabulation, Science Fiction, Science Fact, Speculative Feminism, Soin de Ficelle, So Far… and/or String Figures. SF becomes a transgressive instrument from which storytelling and fact telling become the primary means with which we can ‘stay with the trouble’, i.e. transgress and transform the dogmatic and often static narratives that are usually behind the trouble in the first place. The concepts, images, theories and instruments she employs are particularly useful for our work in “reframing narratives” in t-learning, as she opens up, dissolves, and transforms the ways in which we relate and create stories, and thus the real world cultural-ecological realities they conjure. Quoting ethnographer Marilyn Strathern: “it matters what ideas we use to think other ideas” Haraway takes this mantra further… “it matters what thoughts think thoughts. It matters what knowledges know knowledges. It matters what relations relate relations. It matters what worlds world worlds. It matters what stories tell stories…” This is essentially the mantra of t-learning, where how these small ideas, images or narratives matter so deeply to how we learn, how we act and how we transform conditions that shape our lives and the lives of the more than human world.  Haraway offers a myriad of examples of ‘reframing narratives” the most powerful is how she transforms the hyped up narrative surrounding the human induced epoch known as the Anthropocene  (an entire epoch of apocalyptic devastation), she rather conceptualizes an epoch beyond this, one that doesn’t lead towards existential nihilism, but rather sees the Anthropocene, like KT Belt asteroid strike as a moment, not an entire geological period. Instead the Anthropocene (which she refers to call the Capitalocene- the epoch belt of capitalism) as one that thrusts us into the Chthulucene (pronounced “Thulu-cene”) an epoch as one in which the human and nonhuman are inextricably linked in “tentacular “practices (I will leave you curious to find our what tentacular practices are and why they are so important for t-learning). The Chthulucene, Haraway explains with wonderfully transgressed language, requires sym-poiesis, or making-with, rather than auto-poiesis, or self-making. These terms, like the term “response-abilty” transform and transgress language and image making in an inspiring and revolutionary way that gifts us gateways and openings in how we might describe or shape our SF framing of t-learning, that is: Learning to stay with the trouble of living and dying well together on a damaged earth.

Playing for change: Music festivals as community learning and development

By Micheal MacDonald

The phrase, Playing for Change holds multiple meanings that underlie the authors proposal for Arts-based community learning and development (A-CLD). The first meaning refers to the importance of ‘play’, facilitated by the arts, for blurring boundaries and creating community. The second aligns more colloquially with the idea that we perform for small amounts of money in order to sustain local community/solidarity economies in the midst of global capitalism.  This is interesting for a number of T-learning partners who are engaging Arts-based processes in their work. As well as offering a theory for learning, action and resistance in the Anthropocene.


MacDonald’s proposal for A-CLD responds to a particular diagnosis of our times. He names this the Predatory Anthropocene, a hegemonic structure of semio-capitalism, enslaving our subjectivities (as articulated by Guattari and Deleuze) resulting in obscene situation where we engage in practices that put our planet and ourselves at extreme risk. Not to mention the unfathomable idea that 1% of the world controls most of its wealth.


Engaging aesthetic (complex) systems theory and critical pedagogy, he argues subjectivities are active and in process; they can be ‘enslaved’ in the predatory Anthropocene but also reclaimed through aesthetic resources. The festival and carnival machines in the context of music festivals are engaged to explain agentive creative processes for A-CLD.


This is the place of possibility from which MacDonald theorises A-CLD, animating a critical pedagogy of aesthetics, where artists (of all types) become educators and creators of a better world. Through engaging our aesthetic resources towards creativity and building community, we act in resistance to the predatory Anthropocene.


Reference: MacDonald, M. (2016) Playing for change: Music festivals as community learning and development. Peter Lang Inc., International Academic Publishers.

Epistemologies of the south: Justice against epistemicide

By Boaventura De Sousa Santos

Epistemologies of the South rouses the need for deep reflexivity on the part of the intellectual- activist who is already asking questions about how we can contribute to a just world. It asks important questions about what our work is for and what we intentionally or unintentionally produce through the kind of thinking, research and practice that we are engaged in.This book challenges us to become aware of the ways of knowing and being that the academic project in collusion with the legacy of scientific modernity has privileged, and those that it has willfully excluded through the exercise of its logic. It asks us to collectively raise the voices that have been absent, excluded, marginalized and discredited by the dominant meaning making machine.


Through a deep historical and philosophical treatise he gives us the tools to understand what knowledge production under scientific modernity has produced and how to think ourselves and the future out of its rational and  linear cul- de- sac. He does so by engaging us with the politics of  what is possible if we are able to collectively surface what is absent and pay attention to what is emerging. This he refers to as a ‘sociology of absences’ and a ‘sociology of emergences’. De Sousa Santos helps us to find ways to navigate our way out of the ‘learned ignorance’ that the academic project in collusion with scientific modernity has produced. He challenges us to be cognizant of the ‘orthopedic’, ‘lazy reason’ that has up until now failed in producing a dignified life for the earth that sustains us and all the living beings within it.


As part of moving beyond ‘learned ignorance’ Epistemologies of the South helps us acknowledge the way in which any knowledge is always partially blind.  Each form of knowledge contributes something valuable but also possesses a blind spot somewhere- it always leaves some questions unanswered. He thus proposes that we need better ways of seeing, translating and working with different kinds of knowledge. He refers to these different forms of knowledge as  ‘ecologies of knowledge’ that always relate to each another and the broader social context that they come from. In this way De Sousa Santos asks us to question and diversify the sources, agents and characteristics of the knowledge that we collaborate with.


This book offers us a perspective on how we can begin to restore the value of knowledge as emancipation. He boldly asserts that the primary purpose of knowledge should be to create  greater solidarity and greater participation towards dignified future for the earth and all its inhabitants. It makes us ask important questions about what our work  as intellectual- activists is producing and is ultimately an invitation to work in necessarily deconstructive and radically regenerative ways as we try and bear witness to the most important questions of our time.