Reflections from the Degrowth Conference – Part 2

This is the continuation of the first part of the Reflections.

The set-up of the first 3 days meant that we had many parallel sessions taking place, many of them online, or here and there at the different venues in The Hague (with limited places due to Covid-19 restrictions) which initially felt, to me at least, that the conference was all a bit scattered and hard to grasp in its completeness. Especially as I and many others of the organising team were still busy working behind the scenes and problem-solving issues like speakers not having registered on time or cancelling last minute, providing IT support for the online sessions, preparing the plenaries etc. – all dealings that come with organising a hybrid international event. Whereas during the last 2 days it all seemed to come together, and I felt that I could finally engage more deeply with the actual content of our conference. For those of us who were in town in person, this was also a moment to all gather numerously at a central location. These last 2 days concentrated many of the key conversation plenaries as well as the closing session, all of them taking place at cultural venue PAARD in The Hague and being livestreamed with some speakers joining online. The plenaries’ themes and speakers were as diverse as the overall sessions and activities within the 8 thematic key conversations, and featured truly inspiring voices and stories from many different parts of the world. As a culmination of the key conversations on FPE and Decoloniality, WEGO organised the corresponding plenary sessions. ‘Decoloniality and Degrowth: Resonating and Listening’ hosted by Chizu Sato invited us to think-feel beyond Western academic forms of knowing and experience decolonial and anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-patriarchal ways of being-in-common by cultivating active listening. Listening to the knowledges inherited in stories, music, art, oral traditions and other-wise practices of inhabiting territories and cultures as a first step to really face and counter the continuing structural and cultural effects of colonialism. 

Chizu Sato hosting the Decoloniality plenary during which we were also delighted with a musical performance by speaker Max de Ploe and Mame N’Diack. Photos by Anna Voss

‘Feminist Political Ecology Perspectives on Degrowth’ was a dialogue between WEGO mentors Giovanna Di Chiro, Stefania Barca and Seema Kulkarni about their work on environmental and climate justice, gender, care and degrowth conceptually and in situated communities in the US, Brazil and India. Facilitated by Panagiota Kotsila and Ilienia Iengo we listened to them conversing about the importance of engaging carefully with communities their territories conflicted by ecological exploitation. As a core theme in FPE, this also means understanding how culture and gender roles shape these communities and to decolonise our ways of creating kinship to avoid patronising the land and its people as we strive to build solidarity connections – in Giovanna’s words, “to indigenise ourselves”. Bodies, territories, care and human and more-than-human wellbeing are intrinsically intertwined and our plenary gave a glimpse of how a FPE perspective can help embed these concepts within degrowth scholarship and activism on the ground. After our plenary I had several participants at PAARD approach me saying they were deeply appreciative of the insights they had gotten from the discussion – a welcomed feedback to realise that we had offered the audience inspiring food for further thought.

The FPE plenary with Wendy Harcourt and Anna Voss on stage in The Hague, and Panagiota Kotsila and Ilenia Iengo facilitating the debate online with our speakers Giovanna Di Chiro, Stefania Barca and Seema Kulkarni while sketcher Carlotta Cataldi was graphically capturing the discussion in her live-drawing. Photo by Irene Leonardelli

Finally, the grand finale of the closing plenary provided each of the 8 thematic streams a moment to reflect on the themes that had emerged during the past days as well as to look forward, asking the question of “Where do we go from here?”.

For the FPE key conversation Irene Leonardelli pointedly resumed why we need a feminist degrowth movement:

“Because a movement for social and environmental needs to include diversities: diversities of gender, race, class, ableism, and sexual identities; and these diversities need to be included in meaningful ways. Because including these diversities is the only way to counteract and dismiss the colonial and oppressive and exclusive continuities of our consumption patterns. Because a limit-full desirable inclusive future has to be shaped on reciprocity and responsibilities, to care for one another and for the planet that we are all part of. 

In this regard, the FPE Key Conversation also stressed the importance of learning from communities that are already practicing degrowth, communities, movements, collectives (and we heard many stories and experiences during the past days) that refuse to align themselves to the logic of capitalism and growth and of centralized oppressive market-oriented states; communities that are fighting every day for environmental and social justice, or more simply for their own well-being and survival on earth.”

Wendy Harcourt, Irene Leonardelli and Enid Still at the conference’s closing plenary. Picture by John Akerman Özgüç

Back in 2018, at the 6th International Degrowth Conference in Malmö, the Feminisms and Degrowth Alliance (FaDA) was launched to shape the degrowth movement from within. I believe it’s fair to say that through WEGO’s engagement we ensured that feminist and decolonial thinking and doing was embedded as a fundamental approach throughout our conference weaving through many of the discussion and other key conversations as well. Nonetheless this is an ongoing process in-the-making which requires us to continuously and critically question both our political visions and everyday doings as we try to give meaning to the idea of caring communities and the radical change they can bring about.  

Speaking on behalf of the Decoloniality key conversation, Enid Still gave a very nuanced reflection on the importance but also challenges that come with diversifying the degrowth movement:

“We think there needs to be a deeper engagement with colonial histories not just theoretically but materially, which means tackling questions of reparations and mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth, as well as challenging the sustained silencing of these histories and epistemologies from the south in pedagogic practice. This involves engaging with existing and ongoing work, particularly from scholars, activists and artists in the global south, on how global economic structures are deeply racialised and colonial. A sustained engagement in this way, will help the movement to better understand how the hegemonic way of living and being – capitalist, white, hetero-patriarchial, ablest – takes away space and possibility for other ways of being and living. 

 However, we also want to bring a practice of caution to the use of terms like care and decoloniality, particularly in spaces of white privilege. We need to question what actions the use of these concepts actually entail and what happens when these terms are used within forms of self-representation? Reflexivity is important here but is it enough? To avoid appropriation, co-option and paying lip-service to the important thinking and praxis of decoloniality, perhaps it’s helpful to come back down after this conference and start from our own situated, local, yet networked place and practice to think about these huge, globally entangled and often uncomfortable questions. Since to take these learnings into our everyday lives will be an important step in taking decoloniality seriously.”

Concentrated listening during the plenaries at PAARD and a festive audience thinking-feeling degrowth in their bodies at the conference’s closing session. Photos by John Akerman Özgüç

The conference in The Hague may be over, but in conversations with my fellow colleagues and friends who in one way or the other were participating in making it happen, it became clear that many of us are still processing, digesting and reflecting back on the whole process while also looking forward and asking ourselves: How to continue these rich and diverse discussions? And in all their diversity, did the amalgam of sessions and perspectives engage enough with the concept of degrowth as such, in its analytical but also practical, material aspects? How to grow the degrowth movement and make it speak to those who are not already in one way or another working on building alternatives? How to reach beyond academic circles and localised self-organised grassroots initiatives? Whose voices are missing in our discussions and imaginaries of radical change? How do we as WEGO want to engage further with degrowth, analytically and practically? (Hint: Some of these conversations will likely continue within our network and find their way into a collective book we are planning to publish next year). 

One apparent paradox that was raised during the closing plenary and that stayed with me afterwards, was how to reconcile degrowth’s celebration of slowness, of slowing down our hectic lives and counter the ever-accelerating capitalist pace, with the sense of urgency and the need to address the multiple crises our planet is facing. Don’t we have to speed up to radically change the destruction of the ecosystems and climate that sustain us (and that we are part of) and to tackle the deep socio-economic injustices that were only made more visible by Covid-19? 

Obviously, no conference as inspiring as it might be would ever be enough to solve the world’s pressing issues in 5 days. Rather, I like to think in terms of Donna Haraway’s idea of ‘staying with the trouble’ and staying with the inherent contradictions of any social and political movement or network. And cherishing that degrowth embraces so many different perspectives, voices and scales of action, ranging e.g. from anarchist system-subversive activism to trying to influence the policy arena. Maybe degrowth is an umbrella for a diversity of approaches, maybe it is just one amongst many alternative movements… In that sense, I loved how activist and artist Jay Jordan during the Cultural Politics plenary invited us to ‘Start from where you are and what you can do, and most importantly, have joy in doing it!’

Within the conference together with my colleagues Irene Leonardelli and Enid Still we organised a small film festival on ‘feminist and decolonial naturecultures to inspire degrowth imaginaries’ for which we had selected 10 documentaries that were originally showcased in the Rising Gardens Film Festival 2021 by the campaign One Billion Rising South Asia and the Indian feminist network Sangat and Kriti Film Club. The audio-visuals featured stories of women entangled in ecological realities which attend to feminist and decolonial ideas, practices and resistances. As film maker Nandan Saxena expressed during our panel discussion on how film as an art form can help us imagine liveable futures, sharing small situated stories is like planting “seeds of thought”. Trying to resist the feeling of helplessness and despair at the state of the world, I hope with our conference we planted a few new seeds while nurturing what is already flourishing.

Ultimately, what I take with me is the experience of having been part of a fantastic team organising such an international event in a non-hierarchical, self-organised manner and in a complex hybrid format during a global pandemic. A huge shoutout and congratulations to all my colleagues and friends, from WEGO and beyond, who made this degrowth conference possible, and to all the participants for enriching it with their contributions and discussions.

Thank you!

Reflections from the Degrowth Conference – Part 1

We did it – after 2 years of intense preparation, the 8th International Degrowth Conference took place in The Hague and online from 24-28 August 2021, and WEGO was involved on many levels to make it happen!

Under the theme ‘Caring Communities for Radical Change’, the conference brought together over 900 activists, academics and artists to collectively imagine economically, ecologically and socially just degrowth futures for a planet that is facing multiple urgent crises. 

As a starting point, the conference aimed to address these big questions – not necessarily with the expectation to find absolute answers but rather to further the degrowth movement by exploring and learning from already existing ways of being and practicing alternatives to the destructive growth paradigm:

  • How do we confront the contradictions between endless economic growth and the ecological boundaries of our planet?
  • What kind of society would ensure a good life for all, without wealth and power being hoarded by the few?
  • How can we enable a just transition that halts over-extraction, over-production and over-consumption?

WEGO members were actively engaged in the conference organisation from its very beginnings. Apart from our network’s substantial financial contribution to cover the costs of the event, many of us were involved in shaping the thematic content as well as the logistical tasks behind the scenes. WEGO PhD’s and mentors who either contributed to the conference as core organisers, hosts of thematic sessions or plenary panelists included Wendy Harcourt, Chizu Sato, Panagiota Kotsila, Giovanna Di Chiro, Stefania Barca, Seema Kulkarni, Rebecca Elmhirst, Ana Agostino, Constance Dupuis, Irene Leonardelli, Ilenia Iengo, Alice Owen, Marlene Gómez, Siti Maimunah, Dian Ekowati, Nanako Nakamura and many others of our colleagues who joined as participants. Not to forget our communications and social media manager Karin Hueck who made sure to share this collective WEGO endeavour with wider circles by actively twittering about the conference. I myself was part of the WEGO team organising the FPE key conversation, the Arts & Culture working group and the key conversation on Rural-Urban Dialogues whose coordination I took over in the work-intensive weeks before the conference during which I also joined the Facilitation and Coordination team. I completed my 3-month secondment at Wageningen University with mentor Chizu Sato.

When the preparations for the conference started, nobody was expecting a global pandemic to disrupt all our lives so drastically. Covid-19 and the subsequent travel restrictions meant that we adapted the conference to take place in hybrid format with a big part of it taking place online – thus also making participation possible to people in places far away from The Netherlands or who saw their mobility restricted due to health reasons. However we did not fully want to give up on a physical gathering and so put a lot of energies into setting up decentralised venues in The Hague – ISS and other cultural spaces – for the in-person activities to take place which were joined by 230 participants who made their to the Dutch coastal city.

And what a strange and beautiful thing to finally meet again face-to-face with colleagues and friends who for a big part of this journey had only been seeing each other on countless zoom meetings of the different organisational teams. “Oh, you do have a body, you’re not only a floating two-dimensional face on a screen!” was an exclamation we heard many times on the first day in The Hague.

WEGOers excited to finally meet in person again: Anna Voss, Wendy Harcourt, Margreet Zwarteveen, Chizu Sato, Nanako Nakamura and Irene Leonardelli. Photo by Julien-François Gerber

Thematically, the manifold panels sessions, interactive roundtables and workshops were organised under 8 thematic key conversations:

  • Feminist Political Ecology & Degrowth
  • Decoloniality & Degrowth
  • Anarchism & Degrowth
  • Rural & Urban Dialogues on Degrowth
  • Green New Deals & Degrowth
  • Cultural Politics of Degrowth
  • Embodying Degrowth
  • Dutch Social Movements & Degrowth

As it is impossible to list the huge variety of sessions here, if you wish to get an impression of our overall programme please have a look at the conference website: https://www.degrowth.nl/ 

Yet it was not all just intellectual talking-debating-discussing – the Arts & Culture working group coordinated by WEGO mentor Chizu Sato (that I was part of together with my PhD colleagues Irene Leonardelli and Alice Owen, and other engaged members) made sure that the conference also provided spaces to engage and experience degrowth creatively, both online and in-person. 

The cultural programme ranged from film screenings and debates, theatre and music performances, weaving workshops, an immersive forest walk, exhibitions and artistic installations. Even now that the conference is over, outside the cultural venue NEST in The Hague an earth-built sitting area is still standing to provide a space for the surrounding neighbours to meet and chat, and a pigeon tower created out of recycled oyster farms’ mycelium waste is now growing fresh mushrooms to be picked up by funghi lovers. 

WEGOers enjoying the interactive artistic installations in The Hague. Photos by Irene Leonardelli, Nanako Nakamura and Anna Voss

You can read Part 2 of this post here.

Caring in the time of Covid, in Indonesia

July 2021

This morning, like every morning in the past weeks (I can’t remember exactly how many), when I get my phone to view my WhatsApp messages, I prepare myself to see and hear death. My relatives’ death, my friend’s death, my friend’s families, my friend’s friend, my neighbours, my neighbours’ families. And the list continues.

My ears go numb from hearing ambulance’ sirens, announcement of neighbors’ death from nearby mosques. It feels numb now to listen to such stories of death, how they were well, healthy, kind people. How they struggled at the end of their lives to find the care they needed (not all, but many, mostly). How they were alone (without their loved ones) in their final days of struggle.

My eyes are exhausted from reading death, pain, suffering and precarity. The news is full of death. Crowdfunding is filled with stories of people losing jobs that can not afford food for their families. Twitter is flooded with sad, desperate updates. I want to close my eyes and stop listening.  But closing my eyes makes the demon even bigger and scarier.

My heart used to feel anger. But now I feel scared. It feels like days go by and I wait for my turn. What if I need medical care (which is almost impossible to get now)? What if I don’t make it? What would it feel like to leave my two young children forever?

My head is just full, no space left there.

I and I see people have done what they can do, we try to care more. But nothing we do is enough. People are still starving. People are still struggling. People are still in pain. And those in power do not seem to understand the weight of ordinary people in their everyday life. They live in their bubble.

The day I finished this draft, a friend passed away (Monday evening, 19 July 2021, Bogor, Indonesia). He was a kind, loving husband and father to his 4 years old son. Healthy, young, just started a small workshop that provided income for 5 employees and their families. I contacted him at the end of last month, June, when I heard that his wife was infected with Covid and needed to self-isolate, and he was fine back then. He asked me to pray for him and his family to make it through. A week or so ago I knew that he was admitted to the hospital because he was infected and had problems breathing. Then he got worse – but not too worse – judging from the video he showed in his WhatsApp status. I kept on sending him messages (I asked him not to reply). I sent prayers. Then he said to his wife that he got better, tested negative, but was still in the hospital to improve his health. Two days later, he departed.

I got angry with the government, with God, with him. What an untrusted ruler to let their people dying to breathe and survive. What a cruel God to take him away when he had so much to live on. I got angry at him for not fighting harder, how dare he leave his very young son behind. People are unfair, the world is unfair. Every day is really hard to navigate. I got so many questions in my head in these terribly difficult times. I can’t even start to understand.

 

24 Aug 2021

I find it hard to decide whether I should share it or keep it in my folder, contained safely – suppressing my emotions and not letting it show – as the world tells us to do – be strong, be resilient. But then, two days ago, a good friend’s husband passed away, after two weeks of struggle in the hospital. Their sons are similar in age with mine and used to be in the same class in their school. That’s how I met my friend (the wife). She offered me her friendship, despite our differences. This gives me a push to share these small notes, to grieve and to remember them.

 

16 Sept 2021

Thinking and acting Care with FPE

My journey with FPE (Feminist Polirical Ecology) tells me to be reflective, to listen to stories embodied by others, my own stories. María Puig de la Bellacasa said that care is a matter of innocence as well as non-innocence and situatedness of care. 

Covid changes the way of caring. I do not have many friends but meeting occasionally and especially when we are in difficult times has always been a feature of our relationship. Being close and looking into their eyes, listening to their lived struggles, are a way of caring that I found healing – or at least it helps me to survive another day (both as the recipient or giver of care). But then Covid rules say that being close to each other, and having physical contact, is the opposite of caring. We struggle to connect and sense through words in our WhatsApp and voices over the phone, as video calls seems too much during bad days.

And therefore we scramble trying to find ways to stay with the trouble (famously said by Donna Haraway) – do we have other options anyway? (As I read from Anna (Tsing, 2015) in her book in ruin of capitalism context): Continue or maintain life – forget repair. At that point when my friends even find it hard to breathe, to survive. I just want to continue life (make every day bearable) and leave repairing to another time and space.

“in the most general sense,  care is a species activity that includes everything we do to maintain, continue, and repair our world so that we may live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, our selves, and our environment, all of which we seek to interweave in a complex, life-sustaining web.”
Berenice Fisher and Joan C. Tronto, “Toward a Feminist Theory of Caring,” in Circles of Care, ed. Emily K. Abel and Margaret Nelson (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1990) in (Tronto, 2015) emphasis added.

Caring is indeed not necessarily a feel-good thing, Bellacasa mentions this in her book Matters of care (Bellacasa, 2017). Caring means being emotionally drained for days when your good friend is ill and you see them pass away. Caring means that no matter how I feel shattered, I need to get up and be there for my young children.

Reciprocity is something in care that FPE scholars have attended to, and I find it in my everyday experience of care for my young children. The time I care for my young children (who are not able to take care of themselves yet), it is also the time I feel cared for. Maybe it is the kind of reciprocity that might be different with the conventional reciprocity “This is because reciprocity involves giving, receiving, and returning what has been given” (Mauss, 1974 in (Gómez Becerra & Muneri-Wangari, 2021)). My young children at this care relation do not necessarily return what I gave to them, but still their mere existence fuels my everyday life (in positive and negative sense) – me talking from the perspective of a mother from the Global South, with a partner attending to one school age child (online school for 1.5 year now) and one toddler. After all the pain of losing I experience, I might not be whole now if not for my children.

 

Readings that helped me with this piece:

Bellacasa, M. P. de la. (2017). Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds. The University of Minnesota Press.

Gómez Becerra, M., & Muneri-Wangari, E. (2021). Practices of Care in Times of COVID-19. Frontiers in Human Dynamics, 3(June), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.3389/fhumd.2021.648464

Tronto, J. C. (2015). Who Cares? How to Reshape a Democratic Politics (First). Cornell University Press.

Tsing, A. L. (2015). The Mushroom at the End of the World: on the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. In PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS (Vol. 1). Princeton University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004

 

The 8th International Degrowth Conference starts today

The 8th International Degrowth Conference, in The Hague, starts today. With dozens of academic sessions, plenaries, workshops and artistic contributions, the event aims to strengthen the debate not only on degrowth, but also on feminist political ecology, care, decolonialities, urban-rural dialogues and social movements.

To help navigate the extensive program, we prepared a selection of activities in which WEGO-ITN members  are involved, and also more highlight from today to Saturday, August 28th. You can see them all on this Twitter thread:

Collective Building of a Mycelium Pigeon Tower, by Arne Hendriks. Photo by Anna Katharina Voss

Opening: Post-doctoral researcher in the field of Equity and Development

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR), is an internationally oriented university with a strong social focus in its education and research. Inspired by the dynamic and cosmopolitan city of Rotterdam, our scientists and students work in close collaboration with internal and external parties to solve global social challenges. Our mission is therefore “Creating positive societal impact”. Our academic education is intensive, active and application oriented. Our research increasingly takes place in multidisciplinary teams, which are strongly intertwined with international networks. With our research impact and thanks to the high quality of education, EUR ranks amongst the top European universities. Erasmian values ​​function as our internal compass and make Erasmus University recognizable to the outside world: engaged with society, world citizen, connecting, entrepreneurial and open-minded.  

The International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) is a leading academic center for international development studies. While based in The Hague, the ISS is part of Erasmus University Rotterdam. ISS was established in 1952 as a post-graduate institute of policy-oriented critical social science and development-oriented research. ISS brings together a highly diverse international community of scholars and students from both the global South and the global North, on average originating from over 50 different countries. The Institute brings together people, ideas and insights in a multi-disciplinary setting which nurtures, fosters and promotes critical thinking and innovative research on fundamental social problems. The strong partnerships with organizations and individuals in developing countries make up a vibrant network where we co-create knowledge so that teaching and research remain socially relevant. Key to the ISS philosophy and practices is the wish to contribute to achieving social justice and equity on a global level.

NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development is a cross-domain initiative within the Dutch Research Council (NWO), WOTRO Science for Global Development programmes, finances and facilitates research for inclusive global development. The WOTRO research programmes are aimed at providing knowledge and skills that contribute to sustainable solutions for social and ecological problems in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).

The Prince Claus Chair (PCC) of Equity and Development (2021-2023) seeks to employ a post-doctoral fellow for two years starting in January 2022 to be based at the ISS in The Hague, The Netherlands, with field work in South Africa or another country in the Global South. The post-doc researcher is partly funded (40%) by NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development and 60% by ISS.

We are inviting applications for a post-doctoral fellow (fixed term, 2 years I FTE) who have attained a PhD in the last 5 years on a topic which would complement the research agenda of the PCC (2021-2023). See: https://www.iss.nl/en/media/2020-08-pcc-21-23-background-paper-website-docx

Duties:
  • Writing and publishing peer-reviewed publications emanating from the research of the PCC 2021-3
  • Conducting fieldwork with the PCC in South Africa and working closely with the PCC and host of the PCC at ISS in The Netherlands 
  • Strengthening and developing links with networks and organisations related to the work of the PCC 2021-3 in Europe and South Africa
  • Performing relevant PCC administrative and committee duties
Requirements:
  • PhD in Development Studies or related discipline with a focus on care, environmental justice and feminist methodology 
  • Ability to do sustained collaborative research 
  • Strong publication record in English 
  • Appropriate communication and language skills to engage with stakeholders at community, academic and policy levels 
  • Availability to live and work in The Hague, The Netherlands for dedicated periods
Recommendations:
  • Expertise in the fields of gender, community development and environmental justice;
  • Demonstrated interest in feminist environmental and social theory and feminist research methods
  • Existing relationship with community based and non-governmental organisations in Europe and South Africa
How to apply?

To apply, please send your application package to vacancypccpostdoc@iss.nl

Please make sure all required documents are combined in one PDF in the order mentioned below.

To be considered for the Postdoc positions, applicants must submit:

  • A motivation letter illustrating expertise in the fields of gender, community development and environmental justice; knowledge of feminist environmental and social theory and feminist research methods and community based organisations.
  • A CV in English (including the names of two referees)
  • A recent publication in English
Please submit your applications with all required documents in one pdf file to the Selection committee by email 

Deadline for submitting your application is 15 September 2021

Short-listed candidates will be interviewed online. The interviews are expected to take place early-mid October 2021. 

The International Institute of Social Studies is committed to building and sustaining a community based on inclusiveness, equity and diversity and believes this will contribute to our mission and vision of being the best institute in our field. ISS is an equal opportunities employer and encourages applications from candidates of all genders, ethnicities and nationalities.

Additional information

For further information regarding the position please also contact Wendy Harcourt harcourt@iss.nl 

Conditions of Employment

An internationally oriented and varied job in an enthusiastic team, with good working conditions in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO NU).

The start date of this position is as soon as possible, and you will be based at The International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague. The successful candidate will be offered a temporary fulltime contract for two years, at the level of Post-doc with Erasmus University Rotterdam. 

In accordance with the conditions applied at Erasmus University Rotterdam as indicated in the Collective Labour Agreement (CAO NU) of the Dutch universities, the salary is dependent on the candidate’s experience and is set at a maximum of CAO NU scale 11 with a minimum of € 3.746, – and a maximum of € 5.127,- gross per month, on a fulltime basis. In addition, EUR pays an 8% holiday allowance and an end-of-year payment of 8.3% and offers excellent secondary benefits, like a very generous leave scheme. Furthermore, EUR is affiliated with ABP for the pension provision, and we offer partially paid parental leave. Employees can also use EUR facilities, such as the Erasmus sports center and the University library.

EUR offers a Dual Career Programme (DCP) to assist the life partners of new academic staff (on pay-roll) in finding employment in The Netherlands. The programme is offered in close cooperation with nearby universities of Delft and Leiden.

‘Despite Extractivism’ Exhibition – Open call for Contributors

Now in its third year, the team behind the ‘Extracting Us’ exhibitions are calling for works which bring attention to aspects of resistance to extractivism that sometimes slip from view. 

The ‘Despite Extractivism’ exhibition will continue the journey of activist/academic/artistic inquiry towards understanding the differentiated but connected ways extractivism impacts communities across multiple contexts. The project is also motivated by exploring how the exhibition format can be a way of fostering active solidarity.

Building on the connections between extractivism and care that emerged from bringing together the works of thirteen artists working in different extractive contexts, the new exhibition aims to further explore how everyday and creative ways of caring for each other and the environment can also be subversive acts of resistance which challenge the very logics underpinning extractivism. In these cracks in the concrete of extractivism, what kinds of fertile alternatives might be cultivated and enabled to flourish? How do acts of caring and resistance counter – and sometimes risk reproducing – extractivism? 

The exhibition and accompanying programme of events will be aligned with the  International Degrowth Conference in the Netherlands in August which will be exploring the theme of ‘Caring Communities for Radical Change’, and the COP26 Climate Change Conference in the UK in November in the run up to which we will amplify the connections between extractivism and the demands of environmental and climate justice. 

Contributions are invited from communities, creatives and campaigners working in places affected by the extractive industry anywhere in the world. With the ongoing pandemic context, all digital formats will be considered (visual, audio, text, video). 

Please see here for the full call including the exhibition themes and curatorial principles. We look forward to expressions of interest by 7th August. 

This exhibition is co-curated with the ONCA gallery in Brighton (UK) and researchers associated with the University of Brighton and the WEGO_ITN research network. 

Article – Part 2: “Durian und die Kolonialität der Macht”

This is the second part of the article originally published in Südostasien: Zeitschrift für Politik, Kultur, Dialog, in German. You can read the full text here.

Nicht nur der Extraktivismus bedroht die Durian. In Nordkalimantan heißt die Bedrohung ‚grüne Energie’. Dort sind, am Kayan und weiteren Flüssen, fünf Staudämme für Wasserkraftwerke mit einer Gesamtkapazität von 9000 Megawatt geplant. Rund 70 Prozent des Stroms sollen in das Industriegebiet und den internationalen Hafen Tanah Kuning-Mangkupadi (Kawasan Industri dan Pelabuhan Internasional, KIPI) fließen. Der Rest wird zum Teil nach Malaysia exportiert, zum Teil fließt er in andere Gebiete Kalimantans.

Der Kayan-Fluss ist mit seinen 576 Kilometern Länge die wichtigste Transportader ins Binnenland. Der Fluss bietet traditionelle Fischgründe für die lokalen Dayak. An seinen Ufern liegen Obstgärten und Felder. Von den Feldern bekommen die Menschen Kohlenhydrate, Mineralien und Vitamine; die Fische sind ihre Proteinquelle. Am Oberlauf wird mit Netzen oder Angeln gefischt, am Unterlauf haben die Anwohner*innen Farmen für Garnelen, Krabben und Fische mit einer Gesamtfläche von 149.000 Hektar angelegt. Der geplante Staudamm, der als größter in Südostasien gilt, wird zwei Dörfer mit ihren Feldern und Gärten verschlucken. Außerdem wird damit gerechnet, dass sich Strömung und Sedimentbewegung verändern. Schon seit 2012, als das zuvor zu Ostkalimantan gehörende Nordkalimantan eine eigenständige Provinz wurde, hat die Dezimierung der Durian stark zugenommen. Seitdem hat sich die Zahl der Konzessionen für Steinkohleförderung versechsfacht, dazu kommen noch Konzessionen für Palmölplantagen und entsprechende Waldrodung.

You can read the full text here.

New article: “Durian und die Kolonialität der Macht”

This article was originally published in Südostasien: Zeitschrift für Politik, Kultur, Dialog, in German. You can read the full text here.

Die Kulturen Südostasiens beeinflusst sie seit Jahrtausenden, doch in der westlichen Welt kennt man sie erst seit rund 600 Jahren: Die Durian-Frucht. Die in Südostasien und Südasien mit spezieller Verehrung bedachte ‚Königsfrucht’ wurde in der Kolonialzeit zum Objekt der Phantasien westlicher Forscher*innen und Abenteurer*innen. Ihre Aufzeichnungen zeigen, wie der ‚ferne Osten’ seinerzeit als gefährliches, wildes und primitives Gebiet wahrgenommen wurde, welches bezwungen, gezähmt und modernisiert werden musste. Der außergewöhnliche Reichtum seiner Natur machte den ‚fernen Osten’ zur kolonialen Frontlinie in einem Kampf, dessen Ziel die Unterwerfung von Natur und Kultur darstellte.

Zwar endete die Kolonialherrschaft Mitte des 20. Jahrhunderts. Doch der Traum von der Modernität verschwand nicht aus den ehemaligen Kolonien. Die neuen Nationalstaaten setzten die westliche Betrachtungsweise und Praxis fort, in der Fortschritt in Form von Wirtschaftswachstum gemessen wurde. Der peruanische Soziologe Anibal Quijano bezeichnete die Tatsache, dass auch nach dem Verschwinden der Bürokratie der Besatzer eine koloniale Logik das Regierungshandeln prägt, als „Kolonialität der Macht“.

Entsprechend René Descartes Leitspruch „Cogito, ergo sum“, stellt sich der Mensch als denkendes und sprechendes Wesen ins Zentrum der Schöpfung und verneint alle anderen Wesen, die nicht denken und nicht sprechen. Dieser Artikel versucht, die Kolonialität der Macht in Indonesien am Beispiel der Durian aufzuzeigen und damit einen Ansatz der Dekolonisierung anzubieten, der zu einem sozialen und ökologischen Handeln führen kann, das auf Gerechtigkeit basiert.

You can read the full text here.

Commoning and community, a meeting in Eindhoven

On the last day of May, blessed by the weather, WEGO mentor Chizu Sato and I, Nanako Nakamura, visited a farmhouse surrounded by woods and bush in the middle of fields on the outskirts of Eindhoven to discuss the role of surplus in community building and a transformative potential of commoning with a group of food design students from the Design Academy Eindhoven. We were invited by Arne Hendriks, who is an artist, researcher, and founder of the Harahachibu-University. When we got there, the seminar turned out to be in the open air, chickens and dogs running around. Some of the students are living the house and around the area, forming an inspiring permaculture community with their neighbors. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, they opened the farmhouse for collective learning to design food and imagine life in different ways.

The seminar started with eating home-made soup. It was made of ingredients, such as vegetables, fruits, and herbs, brought by students. These ingredients are surplus from their own households and cooking and eating together support the production and reproduction of a food commons. Chizu talked about surplus production, appropriation and distribution in the modern economy and how they are organized differently in capitalist and non-capitalist class processes. The discussions went into prevailing capitalist narratives in relation to planetary boundaries, gendered social relations, social justice, populism, media ethics, all of which influence our consumption choices and decisions in our everyday lives. Commons and its transformative process of commoning were also brought into the discussion as important frameworks to describe the creation of more sustainable and healthy communities.

As an example of commoning, I introduced a case from my research about women’s buckwheat (soba) cultivation on unused rice fields in rural Japan. Due to the political encouragement for rice supply reduction since the 1960s, rice cultivation has been remarkably declined in many rural areas. As a result, increased numbers of unused and abandoned spaces have raised concerns about deteriorating agroecosystem, biodiversity, and rural landscapes. In my case study, these dormant rice fields were utilized by the local women’s for buckwheat cultivation, to make locally produced soba noodles as means of rural revitalization and multi-species survival. This soba commoning demonstrates how these women are interacting with other community members, state actors, consumers, and non-human earth others, e.g., soba plants, rice, fields, surrounding environment, to live well in rural aging and depopulating context. Also, it highlights the process of making a socio-ecologically sustainable community, where physical and emotional struggles are entangled, and challenges are emerging from social, economic, political, climatic, gendered aspects of rural communities.

The seminar closed after sharing insights and challenges, such as finance, shared/unshared ideologies, and harmonization among community members even though we did not come to any conclusion. Sharing my case study and exchanging thoughts was a wonderful experience for me in these difficult times.

Post-credits scene: When we were about to leave, one student came to me and asked me a question whether I have watched Tampopo, the Japanese film. According to her, my talk reminded her of the film. Yes, it is perhaps comparable to my soba case because it depicts relational processes revolving around Ramen noodles in a constellation of relationships, conflicts, emotions of differences with unique human and non-human characters.

An initiative for an Indonesian pluriverse

Indonesia, the world’s largest coal exporting country, is facing critical challenges. After 76 years of declaring independence in 1945 and later turning  economic growth as a measure of welfare, Indonesia has faced three significant challenges: severe economic disparity, socio-ecological crises in most big islands of the country, and its oligarchy, which is hijacking democracy. The economic gap data, provided by the Indonesian Statistic Centre (BPS) in 2011-2015, reveals that the wealth of 40 richest people is equal to 10,3% of the country’s GDP or  60 million of Indonesia’s most impoverished people . While in the last five months industrial catastrophes have continued to increase, big floods occurred in almost every island, including South Kalimantan, as well as a  flood due to collapsed containers of coal mine waste in North Kalimantan and East Kalimantan. Unfortunately, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) leads the disclosure of the state loss by corrupt practices by political elites, hijacked by the oligarchy. 

The course of economic growth and development, in reality, is never free from critique in Indonesia and globally. The story of the development policy with economic growth reinforces a few developed countries, whereas the rest is fighting socio-ecological crises to not fall behind. 

In every part of the world, demand and struggle for alternatives to development are happening. One of the critical references which hold various ideas for alternatives to growth is the book “Pluriverse: A Post Development Dictionary.” For instance, Latin American countries proposed a concept originating from indigenous people movements, such as Sumak Kawsay, Buena Vivier, and The Life Project. In Europe, the academic and activists are bringing “Degrowth” as an initiative that expressed reversal from growth in the economic sector and other social sectors

As in Latin America, one of the critiques on economic growth in Indonesia came from the indigenous people movement. In Timor island, the Indigenous people’s philosophy challenges the development model that depends on the extractives project: “we will not sell what we cannot create,” means they do not sell the land, the water, and the mountains (Maimunah, 2013); it was meant both as a critique and an alternative to development with economic growth. Unfortunately, the state does not recognize the existence of the Indigenous people’s territory. Indonesian government granted the concession of extractive projects on Indigenous people’s land. It’s no wonder that, in 1999,  indigenous people refused to recognize the state if they did not recognize them as well (AMAN, 1999).  

Indonesia has various alternatives to development. One example happens in Mollucas, Sasi, in a ritual for the moratorium of collecting economic benefit from nature (Zerner, 1999). In other places, such as Mollo, in Timor island, there is a ritual called Naketi, a kind of self-reflection ritual to make peace with oneself, humans, and nature (Maimunah, 2005). Sasi and Naketi were just a tiny part of what had been practiced long before the birth of the Republic of Indonesia. Indonesia has many alternatives rooted in the archipelago nation with geohydrological, language, and cultural diversity.

Bringing the spirit of the ‘Pluriverse’ idea, which explores and discusses alternatives to development, is a crucial and urgent effort to respond to the failure of obsolescence of the development model with economic growth today.  This  is the reason behind establishing a collective among Indonesian scholars and activists, to create a group to start the conversation of an “alternative to development in Indonesia.” The first step of the collective  was to organize  a book discussion and an open call for collective translation of the “Pluriverse, A Post Development Dictionary” book launched on 3 July 2021. 

(You can watch the book discussion here)

“The ideas in ‘Pluriverse, A Post Development Dictionary” contain 100+ alternatives to challenging development as it is. This book becomes a reflection tool, a medium of learning and discussing: we reflect and know ourselves and discuss the alternatives. The activities in reflecting and conversing on this subject consist of two parts; first, a collective public translation of “Pluriverse, A Post Development Dictionary” to make it  accessible in  Indonesian. Second, collecting local stories on alternatives to development to discuss them with broader audiences. It might give us a way out of the shackle of development with economic growth and into a transformation model which allows various options to attain welfare, or even for practicing the Pluriverse, as stated by Zapatista as “a world where many worlds fit.”