Feminist advocacy and activism to end violence against women

WEGO mentor Simona Lanzoni, vice-president of our beneficiary Fondazione Pangea, continues to advocate tirelessly to bring an end to violence against women, be it in Italy or worldwide.

In March 2019 Pangea launched the Italy-wide network REAMA – Rete per l’Empowerment e il Auto Mutuo Auto (REAMA network for empowerment, self-help and mutual aid) connecting more than 20 anti-violence centres and women’s shelters from North to South Italy. Together they provide legal, psychological, practical and emergency support for women and their children suffering domestic violence, but also first contact points to address situations of economic violence women are facing by their partners.  

See here for an article featuring Simona on occasion of the REAMA network launch at the International Women’s House in Rome in March 2019. WEGO PhD candidate Anna Katharina Voss still remembers the powerful atmosphere in the room with all these engaged feminists coming together, many of whom had travelled from all over Italy to Rome and she had picked up at the train station earlier.

How to cultivate non-violent and care-full relationships based on self-determination and autonomy as pathways out of sexist and racist inequalities? These are also discussions taking place in the agroecological networks WEGO Anna, hosted at Pangea, is exploring for her research on the intersections of agroecology and feminism in Italy.

feminist advocacy and activism
feminist advocacy and activism
feminist advocacy and activism
feminist advocacy and activism

 Photos: Anna Katharina Voss

Workshops at assemblies of grassroot networks Reclaim the Fields, Fuorimercato and Genuino Clandestino in Italy in 2019.

Simona and Anna joined many other WEGOers and scholars from ISS at the inspiring summer retreat on feminist methodologies hosted by WEGO partner Punti di Vista in August 2019 (see ourblogon Undisciplined Environments).And in November 2019 Simona, Wendy, Nick, Ilenia and Anna marched together in Rome at the demonstration to stop violence against women – as we reported here, WEGO in action on the streets!

Next to continuously moving between the spheres of national and international policy making, territorial networking and providing hands-on support for women in need, Simona and Pangea also engage in promoting public awareness and cultural change. Lately Pangea participated at the Festa della Legalità 2019(an anti-mafia festival of legality and non-violence and annual prize award) and organised a photo exhibition entitled ‘Invisibility is not a superpower’ at the beginning of 2020.

In a coalition with 70 women organisations and NGO’s, in October 2019 Pangea co-wrote the Italian Universal Periodic Review of Women Rights in Italy (you can read the full report here) covering such pressing issues as violence against women, access to justice, work and welfare, sexual and reproductive rights, environmental disasters and women’s health, migration and trafficking, peace and disarmament. In all these fields there is much work to be done stiil, as Simona pointed out during her presentation of the report at the 4th Forum of Mediterranean Women Journalists.

In March 2020, Simona was meant to participate at the United Nation’s 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women CSW64/Beijing+25 scheduled to take place in New York 25 years after the landmark Fourth World Conference of Women. Unfortunately the event got suspended until further notice due to the global coronavirus crisis. But this doesn’t prevent Simona from speaking up as she keeps featuring on the news (for example here on AskanewsHuffington PostDire and Corriere della Sera) and reflecting on the urgent issues of safeguarding women from any form of violence. Italy has been one of the worst-hit countries during the ongoing Covid-19 emergency. And as feminist activists from all over the world are warning that lockdown and quarantine increase the risk of domestic violence when being confined to the house with an abusive partner, Pangea and REAMA continue to give urgently needed support via their online contact points. The virus can’t stop the spreading of feminist solidarity!

Media Attention to Five proposals from Academics to craft a radically more sustainable and equal world

Several WEGO member have contributed to a highly visible Manifesto by Dutch Academics that has been circulating in the highest circles in The Netherlands. One key question that people are interested in is the ‘how’ question: how to go about implementing the five proposals in the Manifesto. Together with many other communities, in the Netherlands and globally, the authors of the Manifesto believe the time is right for such a positive and meaningful vision going forward. The Manifesto urges politicians, policy-makers and the general public to start organizing for their implementation sooner rather than later.

  • The Netherlands-based scholars working on issues around development have put forward five key policy proposals for a post-COVID-19 development model, all of which can be implemented immediately and sustained after this particular crisis has subsided:
  • 1) a move away from development focused on aggregate GDP growth to differentiate among sectors that can grow and need investment (the so-called critical public sectors, and clean energy, education, health and more) and sectors that need to radically degrow due to their fundamental unsustainability or their role in driving continuous and excessive consumption (especially private sector oil, gas, mining, advertising, and so forth);
  • 2) an economic framework focused on redistribution, which establishes a universal basic income rooted in a universal social policy system, a strong progressive taxation of income, profits and wealth, reduced working hours and job sharing, and recognizes care work and essential public services such as health and education for their intrinsic value;
  • 3) agricultural transformation towards regenerative agriculture based on biodiversity conservation, sustainable and mostly local and vegetarian food production, as well as fair agricultural employment conditions and wages;
  • 4) reduction of consumption and travel, with a drastic shift from luxury and wasteful consumption and travel to basic, necessary, sustainable and satisfying consumption and travel;
  • 5) debt cancellation, especially for workers and small business owners and for countries in the global south (both from richer countries and international financial institutions).

The English text is now online via https://www.thebrokeronline.eu/in-this-rocky-boat-together/;  and the manifesto has been translated into Swedish, German, Spanish, Catalan, French and been in the news in many countries (like in Spain: http://esferapublica.org/nfblog/planificacion-post-corona-cinco-propuestas-para-construir-un-mundo-radicalmente-mas-sostenible-e-igualitario/  and Chili: https://www.elclarin.cl/2020/04/23/holandeses-avanzan-en-el-escenario-pospandemia-y-proponen-un-modelo-economico-basado-en-el-decrecimiento/);

Within The Netherlands there is now a lot of support for the manifesto including ecologists, plant scientists, epidemiologists, economists and others. Here is where the manifesto has been circulating among industry and policy circles:


Regenerative practices of care during and beyond the pandemic

Arundhati Roy, in her widely circulated 3 April 2020 Financial Times piece ‘The pandemic is a portal’, argues that the pandemic offers us a chance to think about the world anew, ushering in a new era. I, hope with Roy, that the pandemic becomes understood as a historic breakdown of capitalist logic which demands a new type of life-world where caring and the commons. And I ask, with her, what could be the basis of a new regime of social reproduction that can sustain human and other life?

These questions I ask myself, somewhat foggily, as I navigate ideas for a new regime via my screen and zooms, at my desk here in Rome. In this global pandemic, the State has found a new place in our lives here in Europe, restricting our once (apparently) free lives. And, importantly, even for those who could not see it before, there is now ample evidence of the failure of capitalism to provide care for citizens, despite Europe’s wealth and privilege.

My mind turns frequently to Bolsena, Italy, where I am a member of a small community-based organisation Punti Di Vista. In this tiny hamlet perched on a volcanic lake, histories of epidemics have come and gone. New eras have been ushered in by the Romans, the Catholic Church, land owners, and the modern Italian state. The deep blue volcanic lake which, I miss, has seen the redrawing of boundaries of wealth, territory, resources, and knowledge that have protected some and have abandoned others. Even though I am far from the lake, I take heart from its quiet peaceful presence in my memories to keep hope.

We are living in a period where we are rapidly redrawing how we understand care. The act of care, who cares, who is cared for, has become visibly part of the biopolitics of State control of their population’s life and death. The biopolitics of the emerging economics of Covid-19 has exposed the inability of the current neoliberal global regime to secure life with justice. The care and the health of populations is mitigated by deep economic and political rifts marked by gender, age and race.

These days I am often left reeling – how do we deal with the sudden expansion of coercion and surveillance that leads to such inequity and exclusions. How do we cope as we are suddenly forced to consider how can care of self is carried out as the virus connects us in ways we cannot see. We are asked to applaud but cannot protect the care givers. I continue to wonder what solidarity on-line or with physical distance means.

In Corona times what was once ordinary has become about life or death, – washing hands, getting medical supplies, distributing protective equipment, harvesting and delivering food delivery, caring for children, supporting the sick and elderly. Our principles of care work (now seen as essential work) have expanded to include workers who maintain collective life on all levels – from medical staff to those supplying food, milk, sanitation, electricity, connectivity. We live with intimate governmental intervention that controls our movements in the home, in shops, schools, work places, and tells us the safe ways to care (physical distance, masks). Covid-19 asks us to rethink everyday strategies of care and responsibility.

Judith Butler’s beautiful piece in Con Tactos(21 April 2020) on Human Traces on the Surfaces of the World complicates our need to rethink further. The pandemic materially asks us to care for ourselves and others as we shield ourselves with masks and soap, as we stay home, learn to work and connect via the Internet. We are now acutely aware of the material objects which sustain, and create our social relations – the surfaces of things that determine how we connect – the plastics, packaging, stairwells, seats, walls, pavements, the particles in the air we breathe. These objects are all entangled in our means of production and social production, determining life and death. We now feel ourselves vulnerable as we touch, brush past, breathe,we feel our susceptibility to what lives on the surfaces of the objects that pass between us. As Butler states:

“The virus lands on, enters, one bounded body and departs to land on the skin of another or on an object, looking for a host —the surface of a package, the porous material of a shared world”.

The question is whether we can live with these new ways of connection and in so doing usher in a new era where that can not only unmask but break the inequalities which underscore global capitalism. How to move beyond the deep multifaceted inequalities which have so clearly emerged with the pandemic and work towards maintaining communities that are organising and giving shape to solidarities that are based on care?

In rethinking social reproduction, that is by putting care centrally to our economic and health systems, we can help to end extractivism, fight exploitative production and environmental damage, oppose sexism and racism. In working against systemic inequalities we can learn from the pandemic about how our human and more than human lives are bound up together in the material relations of production and social reproduction that connect us across territories, languages, bodies and cultures.

I would like to conclude by returning to the lake of Bolsena. The lake is regenerating. The stop to tourism has meant less waste, less plastics are entering the lake. Some communities of care, families, clusters of farmers, shop owners are weathering the pandemic. Those outside remain connected. The birds continue to sing, and spring has unfurled. So, what could a new era mean for that territory? What new values of care are possible? Economically, there is a sense of change, as some products went on line, some compensation offered, but there is a sense of deep waiting now, a wariness of what is to come, how the town, dependent on tourism, the selling of local wines and food cultures will survive a pandemic, this time round.


Care – extra care

I’m trying hard to sleep, seeing my dear 18 month-old daughter finally fall asleep. I am exhausted, tried to sleep, but instead my mind travelled far to where I started my journey as a PhD with WEGO. Here are some reflections of that time. I remembered that soon after I got shortlisted as a candidate in the project, I found out that I got pregnant with my second child. My first one was 7 years old and while we had been trying to have another one the last 1,5 years, nothing happened. And therefore, getting the news was really surprising. 

Before I knew it, I got the position. Only with the support of my current supervisor, I managed to start my PhD, but with a delayed start, an initial visa refusal drama and a big move to UK with my husband and 2 kids (one was 4 months old). I wouldn’t have been able to get myself together if not for the kindness and care from my colleagues in the university, the project, my neighbours, and new friends I found in Brighton. They literally have gone extra miles, far beyond their responsibility. I remember when my project manager dropped in to our place in our first evening in our “Brighton home” and gave us a rug, blanket and a cot while we’re still waiting for the bed to be delivered from the preloved-charity shop we bought them from. I remember how long the chain was of my supervisor’s email trying to work out finance to help me out with the big move. I remember how my new neighbour helped us with the practical elements of the move. And also how one of the friends in WEGO got me to gather myself together when I found out one of our dearest family passed away while I was alone in Brighton before my family joined me. Then finally I remember how a parent in my son’s school took my son to the cinema and watch his very first movie in Brighton.

So much has happened, great and not-so-great things I did not foresee would happen, but what I learned is that here and there, many people will help when you reach out. Therefore, despite the rollercoaster, I have no regrets, it’s all worth it. Even if I found that my project often came last and needed to wait for the end of the day to be touched.

But I wouldn’t be here (and my kids would not have enjoyed the nice kebab in this photo next to an intriguing museum in Brighton) if not because of this support system, the care of those lovely people. Thank you!

Exploring population controversies: emotional responses to Donna Haraway

Donna Haraway is no stranger to controversy. In her long and successful career of feminist provocation she perhaps has never shocked so many people as when she engaged in  in the topic of population these last 5 years.

In 2015, Haraway sparked renewed controversy in the population debate by publishing Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin in which she laid her proposal for  ‘Make Kin Not Babies’One of the key points in the article – mostly worked out in an extensive endnote – is that for the sake of the future of life on the planet, Haraway argues that human numbers should wind down to around two to maximum three billion people through a voluntary reduction in birthrates, especially among the rich. She notes that few ‘on the left or whatever name we can still use without apoplexy’ can deal with any discussion of population at all because of the ‘neo-imperialism, neoliberalism, misogyny and racism its history contains’ (Haraway 2015). Haraway is firm; ‘But denial will not serve us … Blaming capitalism, imperialism, neoliberalism, modernisation, or some other “not us” for ongoing destruction webbed with human numbers will not work’ (Haraway 2015). She is not wanting coercive means to reduce the population but to institute kin making along with new and just societal structures (including policy) which would require such kin making (for people to make non biological kin, and even more-than-human kin) to happen.

While she shows concern for the undoubtedly problematic genealogy of her claims and their dubious relation to reproductive justice, Haraway’s entry into the population debate has stirred up a lot of flack. In a follow-up book Make Kin Not Population by Prickly Paradigm published in 2018 (edited together with Adele Clarke  based on a 2015 conference panel) Haraway writes:

‘I have been screamed at after lectures by my feminist colleagues of many years, told that I can no longer call myself a feminist (…) for arguing in public that the weight of human numbers on a global scale, however broken down by analysis of structured inequalities, opposition to ongoing racist population control programs, and many other important things, is an outrage.’

In fact, Make Kin Not babies has found the most resistance by the very people she seeks to address. 

In preliminary fieldwork in the UK, during which I participated in reading groups discussing the Make Kin Not Population book, I saw the amount of anger, and disappointment expressed by feminist scholar to the text.  Sophie Lewis dedicated a London based journal the Feminist Review article to her own disappointment with Haraway as a thinker where she argues that Haraway takes ‘a decisive turn towards a primitivism-tinged, misanthropic populationism’ and ‘trafficking irresponsibly in racist narratives’. Haraway’s attempt to bring new life into the population debates – because, as she describes it ‘the weight of human numbers’ is important – has sent ripples in academic and activist environments. 

One of the themes of my PhD work is to follow these ripples over the coming years in order to address a wider question of how emotion and communication is affecting 21st century academic population debates and how these responses are impacting on global family planning policy.

As part of my PhD training I co-organised along with other WEGO members based in The Netherlands, an open discussion on the 13th of May 2020at IHE Delft for people who had seen the film ‘Donna Haraway: Storytelling for Earthly Survival’ by Fabrizio Terranova. The 30 people attending the discussion had a lively debate about the role of feminist theory and the link to science and social science scholarship and their real-life implications.

Going beyond extractive methodologies to research extractivism

going beyond extractive methodologies
Early bluebells, a sign undisturbed land, growing in front of the Horse Hill oil production site.

The Horse Hill oil production site in Surrey in the South of England, on the surface, takes up only a couple of hectares and is mostly obscured from view behind the leafy woodlands and blossoming hedges of the English countryside. But beneath the surface its wells extend vertically and horizontally for kilometres, penetrating the underlying clay and shale formations to extract oil millennia in the making. The first strata to be drilled through is Weald clay which will contain the isotopes that signal the nuclear reactions which have been declared as an indicator of the Anthropocene; the combustion of the fossil fuel beneath and the ensuing climate change will leave their own geological traces of this age of extractivism. 

going beyond extractive methodologies
Weald clay deposit.

Extractivism, as I have come to understand it, is a relation that refers not only to such literal acts of the extraction of natural resources for the accumulation of wealth, but also to the asymmetrical flows of power and knowledge resources between people. The history of the social science research is one of extractivist research practices; Anthropology is particularly populated by researchers guilty of exploiting cultural differences with a one-way flow of knowledge accumulating as academic prestige. Thus it is my challenge as a researcher of extractive industries to ensure my research does not replicate extractive relations with the communities I am researching with.

going beyond extractive methodologies
Joining campaigners at the Faith at the Gate vigil bearing witness to injustices occurring at the Horse Hill site.

So what does researching extractivism beyond extractive methodologies look like? Guiding words for me are those of Indigenous Idle No More activist Leanne Simpson who, in an interview with Naomi Klein, states that “the alternative to extractivism is deep reciprocity. It’s respect, it’s relationship, it’s responsibility, and it’s local”. This idea of deep reciprocity also resonates with Donna Haraway’s invitation in her book Staying with the Troubleto cultivate care-full engagements and response-ability, or the capacity to acknowledge and respond in caring ways to injustices inflicted on human and nonhuman others towards ways of living well together. 

In practice, this means avoiding the type of research where the researcher simply arrives, extracts the relevant information from interlocutors, leaves without any further contact and assimilates the information into their research publications. Rather, I am adopting an approach of slow ethnography and of active participation with the community campaigning against the continued production of oil at Horse Hill and the expansion of the industry across the region. This means not rushing into interviews, but first spending time becoming acquainted with the community and participating in events and meetings not only as ethnography but as a way of enacting solidarity with their campaigns. This comes with its own challenges, such as the awkwardness of always being The Researcher in the room and feeling that there is always more I could be doing to help with the enormous amount of work that has to be done rather than ‘just’ doing research about this work. However, as I gather knowledge of the campaign through my various research practices, I am increasingly able to contribute to meetings and events. 

going beyond extractive methodologies
Clay creations being made, and on display at the Horse Hill monitoring camp after being fired.

As a way of giving to as well as receiving from the campaigning community, I have worked together with ceramicist-activist Xanthe Maggs to offer creative workshops with Weald ‘Anthropocene’ clay we have dug from near the Horse Hill site. The act of digging the clay has been an opportunity for care-full engagement with the landscape, and an invitation to think through what distinguishes extractivism from other forms of gathering and creating with natural resources.  We were able to organise the first in a series of workshops before the Covid-19 outbreak, inviting those interested in the Horse Hill campaign for an afternoon of making with the clay inspired by reflections on the Anthropocene and using natural objects such as fossils and leaves as desired. The conversations and activities we shared in the workshop were both convivial and emotional – different from those that happen in other activist spaces such as meetings, protests or the courtroom. The campaigners expressed their appreciation for this regenerative gathering where we got to share our stories and concerns with one another whilst being creative. Community engagements with clay will continue to be developed for the upcoming Extracting Usexhibitions online and at conferences, offering a space to share the story with wider stories of contemporary extractivism from a Feminist Political Ecology perspective. 

Through these research engagements, I am uncovering different forms of extractivism that oil production is taking in Surrey. By choosing to research in my home country, I find I am more open to understanding these nuances. Here in the UK extractivism looks very different to elsewhere, largely due to our histories of colonial violence and the outsourcing of extractive industries to parts of the world with environmental and social protections less stringent than ours. Navigating these histories and my positionality are, in part, why I was attracted to this PhD project rather than those situated elsewhere. My familiarity with the culture and context means I am more easily able to become integrated with the communities, and allows me to foreground in my research how resisting the extractive industry demands substantial environmental and social resources of the affected communities in ways that are pervasive, personal and political. 

‘We are running behind the farmers‘. Mapping food, knowledge and care in Chennai, the peri-urban and beyond

In the city of Chennai, Restore, an established non-profit organic food store, has been working closely with and for farmers for over ten years. More than a ‘shop,’ this organisation has networks and connections that extend to both local farmers and farmers as far away as Bangalore and Ooty. These networks are not simple supply chains but flows where food, knowledge and care move back and forth between the urban, the rural and the spaces in between. 

To bring visibility to these flows, the farmers, the knowledge and the caring practices involved in building such connections, we are exploring the possibility of a collaborative counter-cartography project.

Following the work of Kollectiv Organgotango+ and contributors to the book ‘This is Not an Atlas’ (2018), the project adopts the term ‘counter-cartography’ to describe what will be a process of mapping human and more-than-human food relations and thus, making visible flows of knowledge and care in and around Chennai. Such flows or embodied connections of food, knowledge and care often obscured by positivist and capitalist representations of food networks and supply chain mappings. 

The first aim of the project is to give consumers who shop at Restore more information and understanding about their food and where it comes from, thus making visible the farmer, their labour and their knowledge. The second aim is to challenge the dominant processes and conceptions of capital market flows by demonstrating:

  • the mutual flows of knowledge between farmers and traders,
  • the care networks that are constituted between farmers and traders that disrupt market norms and
  • the caring relations that exist between humans and more-than-humans across urban and rural landscapes. The ‘map’ will intersect with the Tamil seasonal farming calendar to demonstrate and make visible the dynamic and circular flows of food, knowledge and care moving within space and through time.

The project note is part of my ongoing research with farmers and traders in Chennai, India. It was proposed and discussed with activists at Restore in Chennai a few days before I had to leave India due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is therefore still very tentative and has not moved beyond this first discussion in early March 2020. We are also in the process of translating the note into Tamil to share with farmers and other activists in and around Chennai.

Despite being at this very early and uncertain stage I wanted to share this with the WEGO network and other interested scholars working in collaboration with activist networks and using participatory mapping to invite feedback and reflections.

Navigating climate politics: reflections on COP25 in Madrid

In December 2019, WEGO PhD researchers Alice Owen and Eunice Wangari joined the  thousands of negotiators, climate action advocates and researchers who convened in Madrid for the UN’s 25th annual climate change Conference Of the Parties (COP25). Whilst most media coverage focuses on the outcomes of the high level summits, COP25 is an important arena for all levels of climate politics as civil society converges to put pressure on governments to listen to the science and agree strong climate policies. Over the busy fortnight, Eunice and Alice found countless opportunities to learn about these global climate change politics which contextualises their research with communities in Kenya and the UK.  In this blog we join Alice and Eunice in conversation to find out more about their diverse inside experiences and perspectives of this important event. 

How does climate change come into your research?

Eunice: Climate change adaptation is the context of my research. My research delves into the gendered adaptation strategies that the Maasai community in Southern Kenya use to weather the increasingly severe droughts and floods that frequent the region. Using an intersectional lens, I am exploring how local forms of knowledge systems and practices are mobilised and used in tandem with conventional knowledge to adapt to the changes. I also explore how these adaptation strategies shape subjectivities of today’s Maasai men and women. To gain a multi-scalar analysis, I have been following the gender target of the Paris Agreement, that is discussed during the COP. 

Alice: My research explores the different forms of knowledge and contestation that are mobilised in campaigns against fracking and unconventional fossil fuels in the UK. Many communities are concerned about the local environmental, geological and social impacts of these industries, as well as their contribution to the climate crisis. Despite the certainty of climate change science and the urgent need for global climate action, in the UK and elsewhere governments continue to act against their own Paris Agreement commitments by allowing the development of new fossil fuel projects. I am researching with anti-fracking campaigners to learn how this implicit climate denial undermines scientific expertise as well as tacit knowledges about the environment and justice. 

What were your motivations for going to COP25? 

navigating climate politics cop25
Eunice represents the WEGO network at the Gender Day exhibition inside the COP.

Eunice: A significant amount of data for my MSc thesis was collected at  COP23 and the Subsidiary body for scientific and technological advice meetings held in Bonn, Germany. I experienced first hand how diverse actors converged in this forum to discuss various and even differing climate change agendas. Thus, I decided to attend the COP not only as a networking event but to conduct some interviews that I would have otherwise not physically done due to geographical constraints. More so, I secured an opportunity to present my research and the WEGO project at large during the gender day, an offer I couldn’t resist.

Alice travels by train and coach to Madrid with Angelica Johansson, a PhD student at UCL researching the Loss and Damage negotiations. COP attendees are encouraged not to fly to COP by the #railtocop campaign. 

Alice: I also had the opportunity to attend COP23 in Bonn, and it was there that I first engaged with the UK’s anti-fracking campaign. At a side event, I was really moved by the stories of the communities defending their environment and standing up to fracking in Lancashire, and I found the alliance between frontline communities and persuasive climate scientists really persuasive and interesting. Two years on and having committed to researching with precisely these communities, I was keen to better understand the UK anti-fracking campaign in the context of climate science and international anti fossil fuel campaigns. With the COP being moved from Chile to Spain due to social unrest, I was able to travel by train instead of plane and was lucky enough to organise a conference pass with this short notice. 

What did a typical day at COP25 look like for you? 

navigating climate politics cop25
Eunice and Alice are relieved to find a calm space inside COP to catch up with each other and organise their schedules.

Eunice:  Each day at the COP differs largely by the type and officialness of the events and activities scheduled, with some thematic days included. Due to the broad content covered by these events, it requires some level of planning or one risks spending days being confused and not following anything in particular. My day would therefore be planned the previous night where I marked key events that I needed to attend and identified a number of extra ones I found interesting, even though they weren’t the focus of my research. I followed talks and presentations on gender and women rights, indigenous knowledge, environmental justice, adaptation from below, loss and damage and the right to remain in climate induced migration, feminisation of climate change among others. In between attending events, I visited different exhibition booths and learned what countries and organisations were working on, looked for a quiet place to reflect and write down my thoughts or met up with Alice or Angelica at free food locations to catch up as we rescued surplus catering from being wasted. It is amazing how food is used to lure participants to attend events. At times, the food and drink is too much and ends up being disposed of and that is where we and many students at the COP come in.

Alice: Perhaps the only thing the days had in common were having to choose a few key events to attend from the multitude of presentations, discussions and activities organised at various locations across the city. While the high level negotiations proceeded often behind closed doors, in the COP conference centre there were numerous side events to choose from. These usually took the form of expert panels organised in each country’s pavilion or in the dedicated rooms, typically organised by research bodies, NGOs or businesses. I was particularly interested in attending events concerning fossil fuels and the carbon budget, the science-policy interface, and the role of women, youth and indigenous peoples in climate action. Attending these events and conducting follow-up interviews involved lots of running around the huge conference space, so I was very glad to be invited to join the ‘Free Food at COP’ chat to help me refuel!

Outside the COP venue there were also plenty of fascinating events and actions organised in Madrid. One afternoon I attended an event in a hotel organised by The Heartland Institute, who are known to be funded by the fossil fuel industry to promote climate skepticism particularly in the US. I felt very out of place in the small room of predominantly older males advocating for business as usual as far as fossil fuel production is concerned! In complete contrast to this, later in the week I helped make banners at the activist art space and took to the streets with friends to join the huge climate march that called for real action on climate change. Similarly, In parallel to the COP the ‘Cumbre Social Por El Clima’ was organised as a summit for activist groups and campaigners, with many talks and workshops organised including a talk I gave based on the findings of my MA research.

navigating climate politics cop25
The Heartland Institute presented moral and scientific arguments urging climate inaction.
navigating climate politics cop25
In contrast, the Degrowth parachute is taken to the streets during the climate march urging a slowdown of economic growth to tackle socio-environmental injustices, and providing a fun interactive protest experiences for children young and old.

After the events of the day the evenings were no time to rest with so much important socialising and networking to be done. It was only in ‘curious researcher’ mode that I had the stamina for some otherwise unlikely encounters. One evening I could be having tapas with the chief negotiator of Kiribati, the next having drinks with BP insiders, or another evening dancing with green finance professionals. There were also some much more familiar and convivial evenings at the activist art space and listening to the talks and music at the Cumbre Social with friends new and old.

What was the biggest challenge and why?

Snapshots from inside the green and blue zones give an impression of the different levels of formality and participation.

Eunice: The biggest challenge that I faced was choosing between two interesting events scheduled at the same time. Whereas the activities in the blue zone, “La zona azul” were very formal and updated on the main website and app, those in the green zone “zona verde”, where the civil society, youth, indigenous communities, and gender activists converged were given less visibility. That meant receiving information of scheduled activities on a last minute basis as some of these people did not have the resources to disseminate their calendar of events. Additionally, some of the activities in the green zone happened spontaneously in response to an outcome of a formal event. These spontaneous events could get very heated with the protestors being banned from the pavilion at one point, something that fed into my fears of participating in them for a while. 

Alice: Throughout the COP I chose to attend really diverse events with all sorts of people, which was quite exhausting as I had to continuously navigate the different social and physical spaces. Something I found particularly challenging about the conference centre was the lack of daylight and access to nature. As I wondered how the negotiators were getting on with their discussions carrying on late into the night, I couldn’t help but imagine what different conference outcomes and global realities might arise if the negotiators convened at the Bolsena Convento where we had our feminist writing retreat in the summer!

Who did you connect with? 

Eunice: I connected with several exciting people, but one that intrigued me most was a Kenyan woman in the Beyond Labels, Beyond Borders forum held at the German pavilion. Jolene responded firmly to a Nansen type passport suggestion. She said that the indigenous communities were neither interested in the passports nor were they keen on leaving their native land to be foreigners in other peoples lands. She articulated what is probably in the minds of most indegenous communities members, whose voices are often silenced in making decisions that affect them, as if they were passive victims or recipients. You could hear a pin drop after she said the COP had become one big pleading session without any action. Something we all probably thought but hadn’t said out loud. Later, I hung out with her and her peers, who came from different pastoralist communities in Kenya. They explained the frustrations of attending the COP for years on end without any tangible outcome. “Hii ni kupewa mate tu” she said, Swahili for this is just lip service. After some brief chats, we exchanged contacts and later scheduled an interview with them for my project, which they agreed upon. 

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Alice learns about anti-fracking initiatives around the world and befriends other youth activists working on the cause

Alice: With fracking and unconventional fossil fuels seemingly off the agenda for the side events inside the COP, the Cumbre Social Por El Clima became an important convergence space for network building. Following presentations about fracking and LNG in the US, Argentina and Ireland, a meeting was organised to bring together activists from further afield. I shared insights from the UK, and made important connections to movements elsewhere including the US where I will be going for my secondment. These discussions have been really useful to draw  pertinent themes from my research in the UK, and to consider how I can pursue scholar-activism.  Connections were also made with UK campaigners who will be particularly active over the coming year as COP26 will take place in Glasgow.

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Eunice with other activists
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Global fracking ban presentation

What are some of the key things you learned? 

Eunice: I experienced this COP in a very different way to before as together with fellow WEGOer Alice and our friend Angelica we made a perfect team particularly in the last minute logistic arrangements that followed the relocation of the COP to Madrid from Santiago. Being a team provided moral support during low moments, as lethargy builds up fast as the long days go by. In addition to logistics planning, we hung out with each other during the breaks, sharing how the sessions we attended were, brainstormed which  events to attend, or to catch up on  work together. With that, I learnt the value of being in a network like WEGO.

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Eunice networks at the Gender Day exhibition

I also experienced the value of keeping close networks when I received an email from the Women and Gender Constituency working group inviting me to host an exhibition during the 10th December Gender day. This was a pleasant surprise as the exhibition was not guaranteed when the COP moved to Madrid from Santiago. I grasped the opportunity and hosted the exhibition for some hours. There, I came in contact with diverse people who had a tonne of questions about the WEGO project, our objectives and the EU H2020 funding process. I interacted with fellow exhibitors from all over the world. 

One day, I was requested by a Masters student studying Feminist Political Ecolgy to be interviewed on my experience as a woman in the COP.  The interview served as a reflection of the privileges I had as someone working on a EU funded project, hence subsistence money to travel and live through the conference was not any challenge. At the same time, I recalled my underlying fears for attending protests and how my interactions during the COP were to a large extent shaped by my identity as a black woman funded by the European Union. 

Alice: I definitely learned a lot this COP by getting out of my comfort zone and spending time observing and participating in the many arenas of climate change politics. It is all too easy to stay in your bubble where there are familiar outlooks and ideas, but listening to and sharing with others really helps to refresh and recontextualise your own perspectives. For example,  having been involved for several years in the climate activist networks I found that I wasn’t learning much more from attending these events. However,  at The Heartland Institute’s event I was confronted with many new discourses that require acknowledgment from climate campaigners. It is evident that populist politics have adopted many tactics and even arguments from more progressive campaigns to the extent that there are some disconcerting similarities. Both call the other “mad”, and both distrust the corporate capture and inaction of the COPs thus far. With politics becoming more polarised, climate change activism will have to evolve to maintain strong advocacy for social justice and democracy and to avoid ecofascist tendencies. 

What are your highlights? 

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After hearing inspiring speeches from Indigenous communities, Eunice joins her first protest.

Eunice: My highlight was coming out of my comfort zone and participating in the final protest, which comprised both conference participants and members of the Extinction Rebellion and Fridays For Future climate activist groups. Being my first activism protest, I was super anxious, perhaps due to the anticipation buildup and having to deal with my underlying fears to finally join and become part of this admirable action. The protest started inside the pavilion with young people from the global south making speeches in their native languages before proceeding outside and going along the streets up to the roundabout at the IFEMA junction. We sang protest songs and repeated slogans that called for acceleration of climate action, something that resonated with Jolene’s previous sentiments. After hours of sitting in and protesting,I became relaxed and felt part of the movement, that was uncharted territory for me, just a couple of days ago.

Eunice, Alice and friends enjoy a celebratory meal together once the COP is over.

Alice: It was so valuable to go to this COP with friends old and new from WEGO and our ever-expanding family. Even if we were doing completely different things all day, when we did find time to pause and digest what we’d been up to there were always so many fascinating stories to be shared. 

Business as usual in the coal mining area: resource exploitation in Kalimantan

Siti Maimunah has written a long German language piece in ‘Südostasien | Zeitschrift für Politik • Kultur • Dialog’

Excerpt in english

Indonesia: Kalimantan is considered one of the ‘lungs of the world’ because of its rainforests. But massive resource exploitation results in flooding, air and water pollution. But it also brings about a profound social transformation in the indigenous communities.

Read the article here.

Feminist political ecologies: situated perspectives and emerging approaches

An article entitled Ecologías políticas feministas: perspectivas situadas y abordajes emergentes by Rebecca Elmhirst has been published in Ecología Política.  

Extract in English

This article reflects on the development of feminist political ecology, a field of research and praxis that offers different theoretical approaches to the social power relations associated with nature, culture and the economy, with a commitment to epistemologies, methods and values. feminists. From a small illustrative selection of research articles, I present a consciously biased and situated commentary on the Anglophone contributions that have resonated in my own research practice, teaching, and everyday life. I consider four related areas of development of feminist political ecology: first, gender dynamics in access and dispossession of resources; second, the debates around post-humanism, bodies and matter; third, academic and activist considerations about sufficiency, commons, and a feminist ethic of care; and finally, recent efforts to develop a decolonial feminist political ecology. My objective is to show the types of questions and concerns that each of these threads raises, considered as platforms to continue the critical debate.

Read the full article here