Our researchers Marlene Gómez Becerra and Eunice Muneri-Wangari published a paper on “Frontiers in Human Dynamics”: Practices of Care in Times of COVID-19. They also explained how this publication came into being:
“We saw in this health crisis the ideal scenario for rethinking and listening to other forms of life and to recognize diverse practices of care that can work as a vehicle of social change. Questioning these practices motivated us to write this paper”
We argue that the COVID-19 virus has been a trigger for emerging practices of care by being an actor with agency that transforms the everyday life of subjects by placing them under uncertainty. Therefore, this paper aims to show how practices of care emerged or were maintained as vulnerable groups were confronted by restrictions to movement and uncertainties following the outbreak of COVID-19. We demonstrate this using two case studies of the Maasai pastoral community in Narok, Kenya and the community kitchens in the city of Berlin, Germany. Thus, we seek to show how practices of care for, care about, and care with are carried out by the members of these communities during pandemic times. Granted that care remains highly contentious in feminist literature, this paper contributes to a growing body of literature on care in Feminist Political Ecology by broadening the conceptualization of care. The research builds on a typology of care relations based on practices of distribution, exchange, and reciprocity. This allows us to show when care is exercised in a unidirectional and hierarchical way and when in a multidirectional way reinforcing social bonds of responsibility and collective care that transcends the socio-nature boundaries.
The article is Open Access and you can read the full paper here.
Food is essential to sustaining relational webs of life. Difficult times around the world have only further demonstrated this interdependence and the need to think differently about food systems. To attend to the question of what constitutes alternative agriculture and food practices, and why it is important, the “Feminist Political Ecology Dialogues on Re-thinking Food” has been organized by the University of Passau. It is part of a series of events organized by WEGO-ITN. The two-day event will be held online on Zoom on the 1st and 2nd of July from 16:00 to 18:00 CEST. Since this is an international event, translation from English into German and Indonesian Bahasa will be provided.
Food production and supply has changed dramatically over the past few decades, contributing to unjust processes of production and distribution of food around the world. The global food industry is also closely interrelated with climate change. In addition, the homogenising effects of factory farming and monocultures mean that regional suppliers find it increasingly difficult to participate in food markets. These inter-related concerns make the need for alternative forms of agriculture and food consumption ever more visceral. The aim of the FPE Dialogues is to share insights from ongoing research projects and engagements with alternative food and economic practices in Indonesia, India and Germany; with the hope to stimulate conversation about what constitutes “alternative” agriculture or food consumption and why it matters.
The first day will be co-hosted by the Southeast Asia Research Colloquium at the Chair of Comparative Development and Cultural Studies and the Sustainability Week, at Passau University. Oona Morrow, feminist geographer and Assistant Professor in Food Sociology at Wageningen University, the Netherlands, will give a lecture on the topic: “Careful circularity for an urban food commons?” This will be followed by an interactive discussion.
On the second day, insights from research carried out by WEGO scholars and scholars from the University of Passau will be presented. They will talk about food waste, organic agriculture and extractivism. This will be followed by further discussion on the challenges of inclusivity in alternatives, and collectively thinking through what alternatives mean in our daily lives. We look forward to a lively discussion and the exchange of new ideas and creative input.
Caring for climate, caring for earth and caring for people should be at the centre of economic value, not at the margins. What is required is to build caring communities for change based on solidarity economies. Such economies would value care work in all areas of live with the creation of new job sectors and climate-friendly livelihoods which challenge the gendered composition of today’s neoliberal, androcentric and capitalocentric economy.
In her lecture, Professor Wendy Harcourt will discuss how different notions of care from feminist political ecology, feminist economy and feminist degrowth profoundly challenge the neoliberal capitalist focus on growth, the free market and technological efficiency and the inadequate lip service paid to notions of gender, empowerment and inclusion.
Is human speech a prerequisite to the ethical recognition of beings? The film about the life of a sow called Gunda, invites us to look beyond speech, into emotional, communicative more-than-human relations.
“My disbelief was not just existential but ethical—this wasn’t happening, couldn’t be happening. The world was not like that! The creature was breaking the rules, was totally mistaken, utterly wrong to think I could be reduced to food. As a human being, I was so much more than food. It was a denial of, an insult to all I was, to reduce me to food.” – Val Plumwood, The Eye of the Crocodile, 2012, pg 12
The film Babe, based on the novel entitled Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith, and one of Val Plumwood’s muses in her philosophical writings on what it means to be food, brings to our attention a piglet as an emotional and communicative being. It tells an often dark yet romanticised story of the inner life of a family farm, where an exceptional ‘sheep-pig’ has gained a status as a communicative being in the eyes of the sensitive farmer. However, is the power of communication through speech itself the only marker of value in a ‘communicative model’ of ethical relations? Or as the Australian environmental philosopher Plumwood (2012) suggests in her posthumously published TheEye of the Crocodile: can we recognise the inherent anthropomorphic bias from which the idea of a ‘communicative status’ comes and be “sensitive to communicative capacities within species as well as to their capacities for communication with humans”?
This piece was originally published at the Undisciplined Environments’ blog. You can read the full text here.
In two webinars at the IASC 2021 Water Commons Virtual Conference (19-21 May 2021), past and future contributors reflected on the joint UndEnv-FLOWs series “Reimagining, remembering, and reclaiming water: From extractivism to commoning”.
During the first panel, those authors who already published an essay in the series (Jenia Mukherjee and Amrita Sen, Patrick Bresnihan, Emilie Dupuits, Elliot Hurst, Siti Maimunah and Sarah Agustiorini, Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, Kat Taylor and Sheri Longboat) reflected on the contributions so far, on how the series is fertilizing new ideas on re-imagining, re-connecting and re-claiming water commons. The contributors were invited to join an exercise in “active reading”: giving a brief description of another essay from the series, and answer briefly how that essay 1) fosters “critical thinking on current challenges and possibilities for more just and ecological water presents and futures” and 2) re-centers the political dimension of water commons and commoning. The diversity of the contributions that made up the series so far demonstrated how the category of the commons and the commons themselves are stretched between, on the one side, universal understanding and aspirations – for instance to advance a political agenda against neoliberalism or privatisation – and, on the other side, specific, situated, and different local understandings of the commons.
The Feminist Political Ecology (FPE) dialogues at Passau University aims to share insights from research projects and engagements with alternative food and economic practices in Indonesia, India and Germany; with the hope to stimulate conversation about what constitutes ‘alternative’ agriculture or food consumption and why it matters. Ideas and voices from ongoing field research will give a glimpse into the multitude of alternatives that are responding to unjust food systems, and challenging dominant modes of consumer and market-driven food production and consumption. Through a critical FPE lens we aim to discuss the power dynamics within socio-ecological relations of food production and consumption, and how this shapes what constitutes an ‘alternative practice’, whilst also showcasing the knowledges of farmers and food activists.
Dates: 1 – 2 July 2021, 16.00-18.00 CEST each day
Language: English with German and Indonesian translation
Format: Online via zoom
Content: Each event will consist of a presentation or provocation, followed by an interactive session, where we think through FPE, food relations and the lessons to be learnt from the alternative practices being discussed.
Aim: to share insights from research projects and engagements with alternative food and economic practices in Indonesia, India and Germany; with the hope to stimulate conversation about what constitutes ‘alternative’ agriculture or food consumption and why it matters.
Read the first paragraphs below and find the full text here.
We welcome this opportunity to participate in this important dialogue between political ecology and degrowth. We bring to this debate two issues: (1) perspectives on limits and scarcity, and (2) the histories and knowledges of feminist political ecology and decolonial feminism as a way of enriching degrowth’s political grammar and strategies.
Robbins and Gómez-Baggethun, citing Mehta’s The Limits to Scarcity (2010), both refer to the political ecology take on scarcity as a ‘construct that is allied with elite power, not emancipatory process’. It is important to note that Mehta and her collaborators draw not just on political ecology but also on non-equilibrium ecology, heterodox economics, political philosophy and anthropology to question scarcity’s taken-for-granted nature. Scarcity rarely takes place due to the natural order of things. It is the result of exclusion and unequal gender, social and power relations that legitimize skewed access to, and control over, finite and limited resources. As such, scarcity is a relational concept connected to market forces of demand and supply. This does not mean that scarcity is merely a social construct or only the result of power and politics. As argued in Mehta (2010), there are biophysical realities concerning falling groundwater levels, melting ice caps and declining soil fertility, and these biophysical limits need to be acknowledged. However, biophysical limits should not be used to deploy universal and blanket notions of scarcity that deny how women and men (especially the poorest and powerless among them) in specific localities perceive and experience scarcity. So-called limits and thresholds will always be perceived and experienced differently by different actors (cf. Luks, 2010). This means we need to discursively unpack what is meant by scarcity.
WEGO-ITN researchers and partners gathered (online) in February 2021 to participate in a series of training activities with Prof. Dr. Andrea Nightingale, University of Oslo. The aim was to prepare the group to contribute with articles for the Journal of Peasants Studies.
This resulted in this short video series: “7 Tips for Writing Academic Journal Articles” and “6 Common Mistakes in Writing Academic Journal Articles”. You can watch them here:
Giovanna Di Chiro, Professor of Environmental Studies at Swarthmore College and WEGO-ITN partner, spoke on April 29th on an ISS’ Development Research Seminar. She discussed approaches to community-based research and pedagogy that integrate abolition feminisms and anti/de-colonial and environmental justice activism.
It this seminar, Prof. Di Chiro proposed imagining and practicing more just and care-based forms of ‘sustainability’ in the face of the growing, and interconnected crises of poverty, dispossession and climate disruption. She was introduced by WEGO-ITN’s coordinator, Prof. Wendy Harcourt.
The links between climate change and gender are widely known. However, little research has been done on how men and women respond differently to climate variability and uncertainties. To help respond to this, my ongoing PhD examines the politics of gender in climate change adaptation in the Maasai community of the Mara region in Kenya. So far, I have found many ways in which gender, class and age intersect with responses to climate variability, among diverse pastoralist men and women.
Extreme weather events
The Mara region of Kenya has experienced increasingly unpredictable extreme weather events like frequent prolonged droughts and floods that plague the area. This has led to a loss of key resources for livestock pastures, water, and salts, that are crucial for livestock production. The region has also faced tremendous ecological and social economic changes in the last couple of decades in the form of land fragmentation and dispossession, urbanization, and an influx of immigrants. These changes, coupled with the erratic weather events, have compromised the communities traditional coping strategies. In response, changes in processes, livelihood activities, and sources of income have emerged, along gendered lines.
Responses to climate variability occur in the confines of society that is laced with social inequalities along the lines of gender, class, age, race etc. These in-equalities pose barriers to access, control, and ownership of resources, perpetuate unequal distribution of labour, and excludes certain segments of society from meaningful decision making. Thus, shaping how diverse men and women, avoid, prepare for, respond, and recover from extreme weather events that threaten their lives and livelihoods.
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