Manuel Rivera studied sociology, philosophy and Latin American Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin and at the National University of Buenos Aires. After receiving his diploma (master degree) with a thesis on environmental awareness, he served as a project officer for the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE), Berlin, and, temporarily, for the European Network of Environmental Advisory Councils (EEAC), Brussels, until 2007. The following years he worked as an actor at several German municipal theatres, before returning to sustainability issues by joining IASS in March 2011. In 2015, he obtained his PhD in Social Sciences from the University of Stuttgart, with a study about "Theatre as a Political Public Sphere."
At the IASS, he has been working on issues as different as urban studies, Latin American alternatives to development, the German energy transition, or the idea of Nature in the Anthropocene. He co-lead the Economics & Culture program from May 2015 to December 2016, inter alia conducting a study about attitudes toward economic growth in the German Bundestag. Currently, he leads the project "Narratives and Images of Sustainability," with the focus on a critical analysis of current academic and political sustainability discourses.