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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Presentation Details

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Imagining Transports of Sustainability

Michael Douglas.

Since 1997 an arts activism project ‘tramjatra’ (journey by tram) has created opportunities for artists, activists and the tramways communities of Melbourne (Australia) and Kolkata (India) to explore their cities through the medium of tramways. In the context of debates about the impacts of globalisation and the aspirations of sustainability, tramjatra has demonstrated how new linkages of understanding can be made through a public arts practice of transcultural collaboration.

The project has attempted to raise awareness of the environmentally sustaining and culturally enriching contribution that tramways can make to these cities by inducing its participants and members of the urban public to engage in imagining connections between two radically different urban realities. As a street-level mode of tracked public transport, tramways provides a departure toward identifying existing inter-relationships and imaging inter-relationships a-new that are essential to address ecological and cultural sustainability. This presentation will draw upon the tramjatra project experience to argue that inspiring openness in the imagination plays a central role in making possible a passage toward more ecologically and culturally sustainable ways of living in a global context of contested understanding.


Michael Douglas  (Australia)
senior lecturer
School of Architecture & Design
RMIT University

Michael Douglas is an artist and designer whose practice focuses on the public sphere with an interest in movements and the ephemeral. He is organiser of an arts-activism project ‘tramjatra: imagining Mebourne & Kolkata by tramways’, and editor of a forthcoming book ‘tramjatra’. Michael is undertaking doctoral research into the possibilities of art actions.

  • Globalism
  • Sustainability
  • Tramways
  • Art-activism
  • Imagination

(30 min Conference Paper, English)