Hermes Summer School ‘Narrating Degrowth and Sustainability: Cultural Imaginaries and the 4th Industrial Revolution’

Utrecht, 10-14 June 2024 | Summer School of the Hermes Consortium for Literary and Cultural Studies


Cultural Narratives are symbolic matrixes in the making that orientate behavior, world-views, affects, social engineering, and practices (Kuipers 2019; Valdivia 2017, 2019). Literature and cultural symbolic products (fiction, poetry, music, transmedia, theater, amongst others) are privileged sources of transformative knowledge – by enacting simulative and experiential information processing, they play a key role in configuring our societies, identities, systems of representations, technologies, policies, and communicative mediations (Comer & Taggart 2020; Landau 2017; Levine 2015; Stockwell 2020). In this interdisciplinary Hermes Summer School, we will explore, analyze, and problematize cultural narratives of degrowth and sustainability, with particular attention to how they might unfold new imaginaries that can contribute to developing novel ways of rethinking the social fabric.

This summer school aims to provide participants with a critical understanding of narratives of degrowth and sustainability, their complex relations and their implications for sustainable development. For instance, what sustainability narratives configure the sustainable development goals as formulated by the UN construct? (UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals 2015; UNESCO Knowledge Driven Actions 2022) Do they tell a story that frames economic growth as compatible, if not essential, for social and ecological wellbeing? How do they hide or highlight the contradictions between economic, social and ecological agendas? Moreover, what narratives are needed to rethink sustainability in such a way that it moves beyond “green” growth and towards a degrowth path? How might these narratives intersect with posthuman and/or decolonial theories and demands and foster a better understanding of the tension between the Global South and the Global North? In short, this summer school will investigate the potential of such narratives to promote alternative forms of economic and social organization that prioritize ecological sustainability, social justice, and human well-being over economic growth.

As stated by Johns-Putra, Parham, and Squire in their introduction to the volume Literature and Sustainability: “In discussing sustainability from a literary perspective, we draw forward two approaches … One, is that of a critical sustainability. Certainly, other literary scholars have suggested that the very discourse and praxis of sustainability bears scrutiny of a literary kind. Karen Pinkus has argued that sustainability functions in the same way as narrative; it ‘implies or writes a narrative coherence’ […], and rethinking sustainability requires that we rethink narrative itself. Indeed, a narrative of jouissance rather than of futurity might release us from the trap of ‘business-as-usual’ thinking that accompanies so much sustainability discourse. The other approach may be considered a literary response (broadly speaking) to such discourses of sustainability, including an emphasis on the possibilities that arise in a fluid engagement with literature per se” (2017: 5-6).

In this vein of critical inquiry, amongst other timely research questions, this Hermes Summer School will investigate which cultural narratives can foster and prime social transformations enhancing degrowth and sustainability. What conceptual architectures (e.g., conceptual metaphors and analogical modeling) could promote and contribute to developing fairer and more respectful human, economic, and technological practices concerning the climate and ecological crisis? How do literary knowledge and its practices convey innovative paths for re-imagining change, including social and environmental responsibility within the symbolic frameworks of legal, political, and economic imaginaries? How do we inquire about the theoretical foundations of degrowth and sustainability cultural narratives? What is the overarching role of narratives in shaping public discourse and policy? How can we inform social change through case studies of communities and movements that have embraced narratives of degrowth and sustainability? What challenges and opportunities are associated with implementing narratives of degrowth and sustainability?

As operating non-normative terminological frameworks, we suggest conceptual points of entry for discussion and dialogue based on the following understanding of


Culture: “A set of beliefs, practices, rituals, and traditions shared by a group of people with at least one point of common identity (such as their ethnicity, race, or nationality). At its core is the sense that it is different from nature in that it is a product of conscious choice and not the instincts. But as authors like Donna Haraway have shown, the nature/culture divide is difficult to sustain. A wide range of disciplines—predominantly anthropology, archaeology, Cultural Studies, history and sociology—make use of the concept of culture, each one adding its own qualification, making it problematic to say that what is meant by this word is exactly the same in any two disciplines. In the humanities, from the time of Matthew Arnold in the late nineteenth century up until very late in the twentieth century, culture referred to artistic production of all types, and was further classified into categories of ‘high’ and ‘low’ reflecting the perceived relative aesthetic merit of a particular work. The advent of Cultural Studies in 1950s Britain began to change that, as it combined ways of thinking about culture from history and sociology and conceived of culture as the glue holding society together. Culture came to refer to any form of creative production, from the self-consciously artistic work of professional artists to the relatively banal habits and practices of everyday life. It is this sense of the word that has lately become dominant. The principal theoretical problem culture raises is one of reproduction: why do people adhere to a given culture and to what extent are their actions determined by this?”. (Buchanan, I., 2018)

“UNESCO defines culture as the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group, that encompasses, not only art and literature, but lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs”. (UNESCO, 2001)


Narrative: “We make sense of our memory and others’ behavior by constantly constructing narratives from an information stream that unfolds over time. Comprehending a narrative is a process of accumulating ongoing information, storing it in memory as a situational model, and simultaneously integrating it to construct a coherent representation (Zwaan et al., 1995; Langston and Trabasso, 1999; Polyn et al., 2009; Ranganath and Ritchey, 2012). Forming a coherent representation of a narrative involves comprehending the causal structure of the events, including the causal flow that links consecutive events or even a long-range causal connection that exists between temporally discontiguous events”. (Song et al. 2021, Cognitive and Neural State Dynamics of Narrative Comprehension)


Degrowth: “Degrowth can generally be defined as a collective and deliberative process aimed at the equitable downscaling of the overall capacity to produce and consume and of the role of markets and commercial exchanges as a central organising principle of human lives (Schneider et al., 2010)”. (Sekulova et al. 2013, Degrowth: from theory to practice)


Sustainability (also known as sustainable development):

“In 1987 the UN World Commission on Environment and Development published the Brundtland Report under the title Our Common Future. The report was named after the former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland who chaired the commission. In it sustainable development was defined as “development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” There are two very important principles the definition invokes. The first is that sustainability is inherently intergenerational; namely, it is future oriented. The second is that sustainability is an ethical issue. It demands current generations act responsibly vis-à-vis future generations and consider the long-term consequences of their actions. ” (Parr, A., 2014)

“Sustainable development has been defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable development calls for concerted efforts towards building an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future for people and planet. For sustainable development to be achieved, it is crucial to harmonize three core elements: economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection. These elements are interconnected and all are crucial for the well-being of individuals and societies. Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions is an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. To this end, there must be promotion of sustainable, inclusive and equitable economic growth, creating greater opportunities for all, reducing inequalities, raising basic standards of living, fostering equitable social development and inclusion, and promoting integrated and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems”. (UN 2023, The Sustainable Development Agenda)


4th Industrial  (Knowledge) Revolution: “The fourth industrial revolution, a term coined by Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, describes a world where individuals move between digital domains and offline reality with the use of connected technology to enable and manage their lives. (Miller 2015, 3) The first industrial revolution changed our lives and economy from an agrarian and handicraft economy to one dominated by industry and machine manufacturing. Oil and electricity facilitated mass production in the second industrial revolution. In the third industrial revolution, information technology was used to automate production. Although each industrial revolution is often considered a separate event, together they can be better understood as a series of events building upon innovations of the previous revolution and leading to more advanced forms of production”. (Xu et al. 2018, The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Opportunities and Challenges)


We welcome abstracts related but not limited to the areas listed below:

  • Cultural narratives of degrowth and sustainability: literary and artistic practices from Medieval, Early Modern to present.
  • Culturally mediated social transformations enhancing degrowth and sustainability.
  • Literary conceptual architectures for rethinking the social fabric.
  • Sustainable development goals and their implications for cultural imaginaries.
  • Aesthetic coping with contradictions, frictions, and unbalances engendered by the 4th industrial revolution.
  • Literary knowledge and practices for re-imagining change.
  • Symbolic frameworks of legal, political, and economic imaginaries.
  • Theoretical foundations of degrowth and sustainability cultural narratives.
  • Role of narratives in shaping public discourse and policy.
  • Case studies of communities and movements embracing narratives of degrowth and sustainability.
  • Analogical modeling (metaphor, metonymy, amongst others) for developing fairer and more respectful human economic and technological practices concerning the climate crisis.
  • Environmental responsibility within symbolic frameworks of legal, political, and economic imaginaries.
  • Degrowth thinking and posthumanism under the context of the 4th industrial revolution.
  • Decolonial theory and anti-/post-extractivism.



Each paper will be allotted 20 minutes. PhD students from Hermes partner institutions are welcome to send their proposals, including an abstract (300 words) and a short bio note (150 words, with name, email address, institutional affiliation, dissertation topic, and disciplinary anchoring), to by November 30, 2023.



Michael Boyden, ‘Imagining Degrowth’

According to Jason Hickel, degrowth “is about reducing the material and energy throughput of the economy to bring it back into balance with the living world, while distributing income and resources more fairly, liberating people from needless work, and investing in the public goods that people need to thrive.” To attain this ideal, degrowth theorists suggest, we need to rid ourselves of the growth logic underlying capitalism and draw on the non-dualist epistemologies of Indigenous peoples, which approach the world in terms of relations of exchange rather than extraction. In this lecture, I ask how literature might contribute to such a degrowth imaginary. Particularly, I will explore the use of specific formal strategies — such as the use of posthuman characters, transhistorical plots, syntactic fragmentation, or magical realist narration — that fiction mobilizes to imagine more sustainable futures. I will further suggest that notions derived from Indigenous Studies, such as “spiraling temporality” or “collective continuance” (Whyte), might help us to develop an aesthetic theory of degrowth. In conclusion, I will discuss some problems inherent in the Indigenous turn in humanities scholarship as it pertains to the politics of degrowth.

Suggested preparatory readings:

  • Caroline Levine, The Activist Humanist: Form and Method in the Climate Crisis. Princeton University Press, 2023.
  • Okorafor, Nnedi. “Mother of Invention.” Slate, 21 February 2018. Accessed 9 June 2023.
  • Robinson, Eden. “Terminal Avenue.” Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction, edited by Grace L. Dillon. University of Arizona Press, 2012, pp. 205-214.
  • Whyte, Kyle P. “Indigenous Science (Fiction) for the Anthropocene: Ancestral Dystopias and Fantasies of Climate Change Crises.” Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space 1-2 (2018): 224-42.

Michael Boyden is a professor of English at Radboud University Nijmegen. His research specializes in American literature and culture, with a focus on literary multilingualism, revolutionary cultures, and the environment. Boyden is the author of Climate and the Picturesque in the American Tropics (Oxford University Press, 2022) and he has edited a collection titled Climate in American Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2021). Boyden coordinates the Sustainable Humanities research group at the Netherlands Research for School Literary Studies (OSL) and is a core team member of the Radboud Center for Sustainability Challenges as well as one of the coordinators of the research group Environmental Humanities research group at the Radboud Institute for Culture and History.


Mia You, ‘The Ballad of the Exhausted Asian Woman’

In The Burnout Society, Byung Chul Han argues, “Today’s society is no longer Foucault’s disciplinary world of hospitals, madhouses, prisons, barracks, and factories. It has long been replaced by another regime, namely a society of fitness studios, office towers, banks, airports, shopping malls, and genetic laboratories. Twenty-first-century society is no longer a disciplinary society, but rather an achievement society.” This talk will view “the achievement society” of Late Capitalism through a feminist lens, at a moment when expectations of “having it all” – the burden of both productive and reproductive labor – weigh heavily on women. In particular, I will analyze depictions within contemporary literature and other media (such as Kim Jiyoung, Born in 1982 and Breasts and Eggs) of the exhaustion, potentially leading to madness and other illnesses, caused by “women’s work” in the hyper accelerationist and traditionally Confucian societies of East Asia. Can they help us imagine a revolutionary feminist interpretation of Kohei Saito’s “degrowth communism,” or provide a way of framing the tangping (lying flat) movement within social reproduction? Further, I want to consider the consequences of understanding the labor these cultural depictions themselves perform, when translated and presented to a global (namely Western) audience, as a form of racialized work. As such, this essayistic (or “creative critical”) talk will attempt to perform the spectacle of gendered, racialized exhaustion and resistance I see in the media engaged – hence the “ballad” of the title.

Suggested preparatory readings:

  • Byung Chul Han, The Burnout Society
  • Kohei Saito, Slow Down: The Degrowth Manifesto
  • Tangpingist Manifesto (
  • Hyunok Lee, “Women Worker, the Crisis of Social Reproduction and Care Labor” (

Mia You teaches Anglophone literature at the Universiteit Utrecht and in the Critical Studies program at the Sandberg Institute. She is the author of the poetry collection I, Too, Dislike It (1913 Press, 2016) and the chapbooks Objective Practice (Achiote Press, 2007) and Rouse the Ruse and the Rush (Nion Editions, 2023). Her next full-length poetry collection, Festival, will be published in 2024 by Belladonna (US) and Uitgeverij Chaos (Netherlands). Her poems have appeared in Poetry magazine, the Boston Review, nY, De Gids, Nioques and the PEN Poetry Series. Other writing has appeared in Artforum, the Los Angeles Review of Books and the European Review of Books, as well as academic publications such as ELH and Textual Practice. She is currently working on a three-year project funded by the Dutch Research Council, titled “Poetry in the Age of Global English.”


Maria del Puy Alvarado and Celia de Molina, ‘Narrating Degrowth and Sustainability from a Gender Perspective: From the Idea to the Screen’

Can we narrate Degrowth and Sustainability from a gender perspective? How can new narratives be conveyed from a gender perspective in traditionally and heavily masculinized cultural industries such as filmmaking? Is it possible to contribute to more sustainable narratives on equity and symbolic capital redistribution from a female perspective? In this academic conversation, Maria del Puy Alvarado and Celia de Molina will discuss and explore past, current, and future challenges present in the film industry by deepening their successful professional trajectories as points of departure to further reflect on intergenerational and intersectional paths for rethinking cultural policies and how stories need to frame a novel emerging social fabric. In this regard, given the pivotal role of the new debates on feminism, this session will situate its core element of analysis in the screening of the acclaimed and laureated short film titled La Loca y El Feminista (The Crazy and The Feminist produced by Maria del Puy Alvarado in 2022) that will be unpacked in a session chaired by Pablo Valdivia addressing the questions abovementioned and with a particular focus on the sustainability of work, family and the multilayered conflicts interrelated to them. A Q&A from the audience will follow this academic conversation.

Suggested preparatory material (in English; a secured link will be shared with summer school participants closer to the date):

  • Madre (Short Film, 2017, produced by Maria del Puy Alvarado)
  • No me da la vida (Short Film, 2021, directed by Alauda Ruiz de Azua)
  • La Loca y El Feminista (Short Film, 2022, produced by Maria del Puy Alvarado)
  • Cuarentena (Short Film, 2024, directed by Celia de Molina)
  • Ehrich, M., Burgdorf, K., Samoilova, Z., Loist, S. (2022). “The film festival sector and its networked structures of gender inequality,” Applied Network Science, 7, 20.


Maria del Puy Alvarado has a degree in Information Sciences from the Complutense University of Madrid and a Diploma in Production from ECAM. She completed her academic career at the School of Continuing and Professional Training at New York University and the Official Institute of Spanish Radio Television. Since 2006 she has directed the production company Malvalanda, with which she has carried out various audiovisual projects, achieving more than 350 awards at festivals. She has produced numerous short and feature films throughout her extensive career as a producer, among which we can highlight Madre and El Agente Topo, works nominated for the Oscar Awards. She is a member of the American Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences.

Celia de Molina was born in Linares (Jaén), grew up in Granada, and is currently based in Madrid. She holds a degree in Dramatic Art from the ESAD in Seville. In 2010, she began her career as a director/creator by founding GARAJE LUMIÈRE. This interdisciplinary space hosted the most avant-garde proposals in alternative and audiovisual theater in the Spanish capital, quickly becoming a renowned venue for offbeat performances. She served as its artistic director for three years, directing plays such as “ME GUSTA EL CAFÉ SOLA CON HIELO.” She is the creator of the series EL ANTIVLOG, a viral phenomenon that started on YouTube and rapidly made its way to Flooxer on Atresplayer.
In 2021, she was selected to participate in the Spanish Film Academy Development Residency with her feature film “NO SOY UNIVERSAL.” She recently won the DAMA CORTOS competition with “CUARENTENA,” a short film produced by Malvalanda, and which she will be shooting very soon.  As a screenwriter, she worked on the Disney+ series INVISIBLE, set to premiere in 2024. She developed a show with El Terrat for HBO Max and wrote for programs such as TODO ES MENTIRA on Cuatro. As an actress, she starred in the film “CÓMO SOBREVIVIR A UNA DESPEDIDA” (Atresmedia) and appeared in various tv shows such as “DÍAS MEJORES” (Prime Video), “REYES DE LA NOCHE” (Movistar+), “EL VECINO” (Netflix), “GENTE HABLANDO” (Atresplayer), and “URBAN” (Prime Video). She was also a collaborator on Andreu Buenafuente’s program LATE MOTIV. She is a board member of CIMA and has a weekly segment on RNE where she analyzes movies and shows from a gender perspective. She is a Member of the Spanish Film Academy and the Andalusian Film Academy.




Beyond Minimalism: For a cultural politics of degrowth
Miriam Meissner (Assistant Prof. of Culture & Political Ecology, Maastricht University)

Minimalism has gained popularity as a method of dealing with what some perceive as ‘a world of too much’: too much clutter, too much stress, too much distraction. Subjects in affluent societies profile minimalism as a method for setting priorities and pursuing ‘what matters in life’. Decluttering the home and agenda is profiled as a method for coping with work-life stress and precarity. At the same time, minimalism has also received a great amount of critique. Not only are minimalist lifestyles themselves an expression of the commodified cultures that they seek to critique, but their practice is also individualized and often hinges on privilege. This workshop asks what – despite all critique – can be learned from minimalist lifestyles for social justice and ecological regeneration. Through the close-reading of minimalist self-help alongside degrowth analyses, we will explore what can be learned from minimalist lifestyles for a cultural politics of degrowth. In so doing, we will follow the strategic thinking of philosophers such as Antonio Gramsci, Stuart Hall, and Chantal Mouffe. The goal is to critically discuss and creatively speculate on cultural strategies for a degrowth transition.

Suggested preparatory readings:


How to respond sustainably to limits? Engaging with ideas, narratives, and cultures of natural limits and collective self-limitation
Lilian Kroth (Postdoc researcher, University of Fribourg)

The idea of limits of resources, climate scarcity, and planetary boundaries are central to discourses of climate change and the question of how we can respond to several crises sustainably and responsibly. In this masterclass, we will engage with approaches to degrowth and sustainability from an angle that negotiates the social, scientific, and cultural influences that are tied together when it comes to encountering limits in nature and setting limits to one’s own actions. The negotiation of ‘limits’ is therefore two-fold: it is on the one hand an endeavour with a longstanding history (way before climate change has been an explicit topic) to get a grasp on the planet’s limited resources and how much it can ‘bear’; on the other hand, this urges us to think about limits in the realm of human organization and action, leading to ideas of demographic politics, limits through a legal structure, and to individual and collective cultures of self-limitation. We will engage with a range of authors and approaches that reflect upon the history of these interconnected forms of limitation, from Neo-Malthusianism up until now, engage particularly with underlying narratives and metaphors that shape these limitations, investigate critical questions of ‘universal’ limits, and foster a future-oriented perspective on climatically and socially sustainable forms of limitation.


Suggested preparatory readings:

  • Asayama, Shinichiro. ‘Threshold, Budget and Deadline: Beyond the Discourse of Climate Scarcity and Control’. Climatic Change 167, no. 33 (2021): 1–16.
  • Brand, Ulrich, Barbara Muraca, Éric Pineault, Marlyne Sahakian, Anke Schaffartzik, Andreas Novy, Christoph Streissler, et al. ‘From Planetary to Societal Boundaries: An Argument for Collectively Defined Self-Limitation’. Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy 17, no. 1 (2021): 264–91.
  • Harvey, David. ‘Population, Resources, and the Ideology of Science’. Economic Geography 50, no. 3 (1974): 256–77.
  • Kallis, Giorgos. Degrowth. The Economy Key Ideas. Agenda Publishing, 2018.
  • ———. Limits: Why Malthus Was Wrong and Why Environmentalists Should Care. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019.
  • Mehta, Lyla, ed. The Limits to Scarcity: Contesting the Politics of Allocation. London: Routledge, 2010.
  • Serres, Michel. The Natural Contract. Translated by Elizabeth MacArthur and William Paulson. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995.
  • Wrigley, E. A. ‘The Limits to Growth: Malthus and the Classical Economists’. Population and Development Review 14 (1988): 30–48.


Crafting Imaginaries: Challenges and Opportunities for Editing, Publishing, and Literary Sustainability in the Era of Degrowth

Orli Naamani (LannooMeulenhoff Foreign Rights Head and Author)
Pablo Valdivia (Professor European Culture and Literature, RUG)



The landscape of literature is undergoing a transformative shift, marked by a growing awareness of changes in reading habits, environmental sustainability, and the paradigm of degrowth. In this masterclass, titled “Crafting Imaginaries: Challenges and Opportunities for Editing, Publishing, and Literary Sustainability in the Era of Degrowth,” we delve into the intersection of creativity, editorial processes, and the urgent need for sustainable literary practices.

As we navigate the dynamic realm of literature, editors and publishers find themselves at the forefront of shaping narratives that resonate with challenges such as the rise of AI, inequities, cultural appropriation, and polarized worldviews amongst others. This masterclass aims to explore the challenges and opportunities inherent in this evolving landscape. Participants will embark on a journey to understand the profound impact of editorial decisions on the publishing industry.

The class will address the intricate balance between artistic expression and the cultural industry, examining how editing choices can influence the overall sustainability of literary forms. Furthermore, the masterclass will delve into the challenges faced by publishers in adapting to a sustainable model while maintaining the quality and diversity of literary content. Participants will gain insights into the evolving expectations of readers in an era that demands not only compelling narratives but also a commitment to environmental stewardship and responses to interconnected global complex contexts.

Through a combination of case studies, interactive discussions, and practical exercises, this masterclass aims to encourage students to become agents of positive change. By the end of the session, participants will be equipped with the knowledge and tools to navigate the challenges of crafting imaginaries in a way that aligns with the principles of degrowth, fostering a sustainable and vibrant literary future.


Suggested preparatory readings:


Masterclasses by Hermes faculty for small groups (see above): the program will include three seminars for small groups, each focusing on a topic related to the general theme of “Narrating Degrowth and Sustainability”.




Harnessing Ethos and Pathos in Communication for Sustainable Futures



María Pedroviejo

(Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, Spain and professional actress)



3 hours (15-20 break)


Learning Mode:

Active Learning with a Theory section (readings will be provided for discussion during the workshop) + Group-based interactive practice (situational and skills-centered)



Effective communication fosters understanding and drives change, especially in degrowth and sustainability. This workshop delves into the critical understanding of ethos and pathos within the context of cultural narratives surrounding these pressing issues. Ethos, the credibility and trustworthiness of the speaker, and pathos, the emotional appeal to the audience, are powerful tools that can shape perceptions, inspire action, and cultivate meaningful dialogue.


Considering diverse cultural perspectives and contexts, participants will explore how ethos and pathos intersect with the narratives of degrowth and sustainability. Through interactive discussions, case studies, and practical exercises, attendees will develop strategies to enhance communication skills, effectively engage diverse audiences, and advocate for sustainable practices.


This workshop aims to facilitate students with fundamental knowledge and skills to recognize and leverage ethos and pathos in various communication scenarios. Participants will learn to craft compelling narratives, utilize persuasive language, and build authentic connections with their audiences.


Key Topics Covered:

  • Understanding Ethos and Pathos: Definitions and Concepts
  • Cultural Narratives of Degrowth and Sustainability
  • Ethos and Pathos in Communication: Theory and Practice
  • Case Studies and Examples from Various Cultural Contexts
  • Crafting Compelling Messages for Change
  • Strategies for Engaging Different Audiences
  • Ethical Considerations in Ethos and Pathos Utilization
  • Practical Exercises and Role-Playing Scenarios


Overarching Session Research Questions:

  • How do cultural narratives influence perceptions of degrowth and sustainability, and how can ethos and pathos be utilized to navigate these narratives effectively?
  • What are the key elements of ethos and pathos that resonate with different cultural groups when communicating about sustainability and degrowth?
  • How do individuals’ levels of trust in communicators (ethos) affect their willingness to engage with messages about sustainability and degrowth?
  • In what ways do emotional appeals (pathos) enhance or hinder communication efforts related to sustainability and degrowth across diverse cultural contexts?
  • How can communicators navigate the tension between ethical persuasion and manipulation when employing ethos and pathos in messaging about sustainability and degrowth?
  • What strategies can be developed to tailor communication approaches using ethos and pathos to effectively engage specific demographic groups in discussions about degrowth and sustainability?
  • How do cultural differences in communication styles impact the effectiveness of ethos and pathos in promoting sustainable behaviors and attitudes?
  • What role do storytelling and narrative framing play in leveraging ethos and pathos to promote understanding and action in the context of degrowth and sustainability?


Suggested Preparatory Readings:

  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini. [This book explores the principles of persuasion, including how to effectively appeal to emotions and establish credibility, which are key components of ethos and pathos.]
  • The Art of Rhetoric by Aristotle. [Aristotle’s classic work on rhetoric delves into the techniques and strategies used in persuasive communication, providing valuable insights into the importance of ethos and pathos in crafting compelling arguments.]
  • Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. [This book examines why certain ideas are more memorable and persuasive than others, offering practical tips on how to make messages resonate with audiences through emotional appeal and credibility.]
  • Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman. [While not specifically focused on communication, this book explores the importance of emotional intelligence in interpersonal interactions, providing valuable insights into how emotions influence persuasion and decision-making.]
  • The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language by Steven Pinker [Pinker’s book explores the cognitive mechanisms underlying language and communication, shedding light on how ethos and pathos operate at a neurological level.]


These readings cover various topics related to persuasion, communication, and emotional intelligence, providing valuable perspectives and insights that can enhance students’ understanding of ethos and pathos in communication.\



María Pedroviejo holds a BA in Hispanic Philology, an MA in Cultural Management, and PhD training in Theater from the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares (Spain), where she researches and teaches. Besides, she studied dramatic art at the National School of Classic Theater in Madrid and New York. Pedroviejo is an expert on cultural industries, theater, communication, neuro-linguistics, and gender literary studies. In parallel, she has developed a successful and multi-award acting career ranging from iconic roles in famous Spanish TV series (Centro Médico or Águila Roja) to big screen titles such as Exodus: Gods and Kings by Ridley Scott. In this regard, María Pedroviejo has received several recognitions and nominations, amongst others, at the Los Angeles International Underground Film Festival (USA), the Women Film Festival (USA), and the Andria International Festival (Italy) for her work in Anonymous by Félix Llorente (a short film nominated for the Goya Awards in 2012). Furthermore, she has collaborated on TV literary content-based programs such as “Libros con Uasabi” (La2 TVE) and traveled to Oman, Belgium, and Japan as a reporter. For more information, click here


General Information

The Netherlands Research School for Literary Studies (OSL) is a member of the Hermes Consortium for Literary and Cultural Studies, a long-standing collaboration of twelve doctoral schools in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the USA. The Consortium’s annual summer school, hosted in turn by each partner institution, brings together specialists, delegates from the partner universities, and 24 PhD students (two per university). An intensive training workshop and work-in-progress presentations focus on shared methodologies and interdisciplinary themes and lead to the publication of an annual edited volume, published by UCL Press in the Comparative Literature and Culture series.


Practical Information

The school will take place in Utrecht. Accommodation for delegates, speakers and student participants will be provided for five nights (10th June to 14th June 2024). A conference fee of EUR 350.00 per participant will include participation, accommodation, cultural activities, coffee breaks, lunch on five days, and conference dinner. Participants are requested to make their own travel arrangements.




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Büchs, M. & Koch, M. (2019). “Challenges for the degrowth transition: The debate about wellbeing,” Futures, Volume 105.,


D’Amato, D. (2021). “Sustainability Narratives as Transformative Solution Pathways: Zooming in on the Circular Economy”. Circ.Econ.Sust. 1, 231–242.


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