POSTED: June 13, 2016

Doing family and sustainability

Kate Burningham to present new paper at 5th International CRFR conference
Edinburgh, 14 June 2016

CC BY-SA 2.0 :: Ellie / Flickr

“Doing family and sustainability: tensions and synergies for new mothers”, explores where modes of consumption activity, which might be deemed sustainable, emerge in the everyday doing of family for first time mothers. It argues that sustainable modes of consumption are adopted only when they are in synergy with the over-riding project of doing family and are largely explained in terms of priorities of care, thrift or health rather than sustainability.

In this paper, Kate Burningham and Sue Venn draw on longitudinal qualitative research with 12 new mothers in South London who were interviewed on several occasions before and after giving birth. Interviews focused on how everyday life and ordinary consumption shifted or remained stable over this period with sustainability only being explicitly discussed in the final interview.

Participants largely constructed sustainability as an ideal at odds with the reality of everyday family life. Sustainable consumption was conceptualised as individualised moral injunctions for specific behaviours, failure to enact these was explained in terms of more pressing demands associated with the role of mother. The paper argues for the development of more relational and positive discourses of sustainable consumption which align sustainable living with the creation and maintenance of family life.


The conference Kate is presenting the paper at is hosted by the Centre for Research on Family and Relationship and addresses key questions relating to unequal families and relationships’ such as:

  • How are social divisions and inequalities experienced within the context of families and personal relationships?
  • How do inequalities of gender, social class, ethnicity, sexuality, disability and generation, intersect within and between families, households or friendship groups?
  • How are families and relationships implicated in sexism, racism and bigotry, as well as political resistance to injustice and encouragement of inclusiveness, fairness and equality?
  • What comparisons can we draw between the global north and global south and what are the consequences of national boundaries and immigration policies for unequal families and relationships?

For conference tickets and further information, visit the CRFR website. The suggested Twitter hashtag for the three-day event is .

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