Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Gregory Howard, Ph.D.,

Second Advisor

Ann Miles, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Vincent Lyon-Callo, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Cybelle Shattuck, Ph.D.


governance sustainability, holistic sustainability, philanthropy, selective sustainability, sustainability fix, urban sustainability


The social, economic, and ecological crises of contemporary cities have compelled some communities to pursue urban sustainability agendas. In the United States, municipal governments and local actors engage with a myriad of urban sustainability discourses and “logics” that shape urban sustainability agendas. The literature suggests that urban sustainability discourses and logics are shifting in ways that are more “selective” or exclusive of spaces, issues, and people. This study investigates the urban sustainability logics taking shape in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Most existing research focuses on large cities with well-established urban sustainability agendas. In contrast, this case study focuses on the urban sustainability agenda unfolding in a mid-sized city. Drawing on interviews, observations, and documents, I explore how Kalamazoo inhabitants make sense of the contested concept of sustainability and how the community navigates urban sustainable development. Three logics of urban sustainability are identified in Kalamazoo: the holistic sustainability logic, the philanthropic fix logic, and the community self-determination logic. For the case of Kalamazoo, sustainability is widely viewed as a holistic concept that moves beyond the conventional environmental, economic, and equity dimensions or pillars of sustainability. In a community with a unique presence of philanthropy, the intervening role of philanthropy plays an important part in the urban sustainability agenda unfolding in Kalamazoo, but so do community efforts to secure self-determined outcomes and deliberation in urban governance. This study suggests that urban sustainability discourses and logics are continuing to evolve. In particular, holistic sustainability discourses may promote more inclusive rather than selective urban sustainability agendas; however, there remain challenges to translating holistic sustainability discourses into policy and practice.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access