“There are times in life when the question of knowing if one can think differently than one thinks, and perceive differently than ones sees, is absolutely necessary if one is to go on looking and reflecting at all.”


–  Michel Foucault

Research Background


A Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition and Health with a focus on Malnutrition and Food Security led Siri to complete a Master’s Degree in Rural Development and Innovation, both from Wageningen University. In her thesis and internship she focused on international development policy around food security and the impact of land privatization on rural livelihoods in Uganda. She continued with an Advanced Masters in International Development (Radboud University) in combination with a traineeship at the Center for Development Innovation. In 2016 she became part of the European research project SUSPLACE (Sustainable Place Shaping) as early stage researcher on Ecovillages and Sustainable Living. Her host institute was the Natural Resource Institute of Finland (LUKE) and she collaborated with the University of Aveiro. Within this project she started her current PhD research on transformative learning in ecovillages.

Current Research


What does transformative change towards different kinds of societies require from people?

What experiences trigger transformative learning and how are processes of inner change linked to changes in behavior, disruption of systems and the creation of new forms of living?

These are some of the questions that this research project addresses by exploring the learning journeys of ecovillages.


The theoretical lens is grounded in a place-based approach to transformative learning theory, centered around four dimensions: immersion, compassionate connection, creativity and transgression.

The research has been carried out in collaboration with three communities, Kurjen Tila and Väinölä iin Finland and Tamera in Portugal. Methods used were inspired by a transpersonal research approach, specifically intuitive inquiry, sensory ethnography and participatory research. Methods including ethnographic immersion, life-story interviews and photo-voice.


Promotors: Arjen Wals (Education and Learning Services Wageningen University) & Han Wiskerke (Rural Sociology Wageningen University)

Co-promotors: Hilkka Vihinen (Natural Resource Institute) and Elisabete Figueiredo (University of Aveiro)



Pisters, S.R., H. Vihinen, E. Figueiredo (2019) Place based transformative learning: a framework to explore consciousness in sustainability initiatives, Emotion, Space and Society, Volume 32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.emospa.2019.04.007

Pisters, S.R., Vihinen, H. & Figueiredo, E. (2020). Inner change and sustainability initiatives: exploring the narratives of eco-villagers through a place-based transformative learning approach. Sustainability Science https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-019-00775-9 

Horlings, L.G., Nieto-Romero, M., Pisters, S.R., Soini, K. (2019) Operationalizing transformative sustainability science through place-based research: the role of researchers. Sustainability Science.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-019-00757-x 

New revelations settle in

Like the morning dew

On the shallow of my mind


– Christian Bosse

siri pisters

Siri Pisters


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