Feminist Political Ecology Dialogues on Re-thinking Food at Passau University

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.

New article: ‘Beyond limits and scarcity: Feminist and decolonial contributions to degrowth’

WEGO-ITN partner Prof. Dr. Lyla Mehta and WEGO-ITN coordinator, Prof. Dr. Wendy Harcourt, have released a new article in Political Geography, which is now available in open access.

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.

 

Videos: 7 tips and 6 mistakes in writing academic journal articles

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:

 

 

Seminar: ‘Imagining Abolition Ecofeminism(s)’ is now online

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.

You can now watch the talk here.

 

 

Gender and climate change adaptation responses in Kenya

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.

You can read the full text at the Institute for Development Studies.

‘Troubling Gender: Voices from Feminist Political Ecology’-webinar is now online

WEGO-ITN partner Prof. Dr. Rebecca Elmhirst and Dr. Bernadette P. Resurreccion joined forces last week at “Troubling Gender: Voices from Feminist Political Ecology”. This webinar was aimed at reflecting on their new book ‘Negotiating Gender Expertise in Environment and Development: Voices from Feminist Political Ecology’ (open access link), as well as on their experiences as researchers.

Rather than being a book launch per se, the event widened the conversation as researchers in Nepal reflected on their own situated journeys and experiences – and you can now watch the full exchange online.

New article: ‘COVID-19 in Rural India, Algeria, and Morocco’

WEGO-ITN’s early stage researcher Irene Leonardelli – together with Lisa Bossenbroek, Hind Ftouhi, Zakaria Kadiri, Sneha Bhat, Seema Kulkarni, Meriem Farah Hamamouche, Mohamed Amine Saidani, Margreet Zwarteveen and Jeltsje Sanne Kemerink-Seyoum – has just released a new publication: “COVID-19 in Rural India, Algeria, and Morocco: A Feminist Analysis of Small-Scale Farmers’ and Agricultural Laborers’ Experiences and Inventive Practices”.

“This article is the product of an ongoing collaboration between several researchers-activists working in different rural contexts in India, Morocco and Algeria. We, the authors of this article, have different backgrounds but are all interested in studying processes of agrarian change from a feminist critical perspective. We work together on several projects including the Transformations to Groundwater Sustainability (T2GS) project and the DUPC2 funded project “Farming in times of crises: experiences, responses and needs of smallholder farmers during the COVID19 pandemic”.

Writing this article together was a way to remain engaged with the farmers and the agricultural labourers we met during our fieldwork, as we were all concerned about how the COVID-19 pandemic could affect them. It was also a way to remain virtually connected, share stories and inspire each other during difficult times. As mentioned in the conclusions of the article: “We hope that these insights and discussions can contribute to constructively engage with the different entangled socionatural challenges, uncertainties and marginalizations that agricultural actors face and bring about the lasting transformations this world needs post COVID-19.”

You can read the full text here.

For more information about Irene’s work, listen to her episode on our The Feminist Political Podcast.

 

 

“Care within Time”, a poetic contribution

This poem was originally published here as part of ‘Care as Method’ workshop, organised by University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

 

Care without time
Shown disfigured through old glass
The kind that greens over time
It shudders through bodies, places
At speed

Care for a shared body
Of space(s)
Of knowledge(s)
Of love that knows only curiosity
When fear and uncertainty paint the surrounding trees
Making the forest inaudible to the touch

The violence of caring moves
Beyond harms way
Flowing through old, gnarled and tangled roots of intimacy
Known and unknown
Smelling of grassy, mossy interdependency

 

About the poem

I started to write a short essay for this workshop but found that my words couldn’t express the tensions I felt about my research, particularly the entanglement of care and time, and the contradictions inherent to caring relations. This poem is therefore about my attempt to think through the ethics and politics of care in relation to my research methodologies specifically. Through the poem I tried to untangle my thoughts through evoking different senses, to feel rather than (only) think with care. I try to depict my anxieties around what it means to care in research that is time-bound – limited to timescales, funding limitations, and often shaped by institutional ethical frameworks, which do not always produce ethical relations in situated research encounters. I try to speak to the care of shared labours, spaces and knowledges as liberating, stimulating but also extractive and oppressive. The quick shift to ‘fear and uncertainty’ in the poem, tries to emulate that sense of how unseen such inequalities and unevenness can be, often only revealed in intimate moments. I try to visualise these relations between care, violence and intimacy which occupy my thoughts.

 

 

When honesty is not the best policy: the ethical dilemma of sharing research findings

Two hours had just flown by. We were in the backyard of a local shopkeeper’s house that doubled as an electronic repair shop. But business was closed today. The heavy wooden doors and windows had been bolted shut so no one could interrupt the interview.

The conversation was about two communities entrenched in a bitter battle over ethnic hierarchy in the village. Engrossed by the interview, I had deliberately been doing very little talking when my speaker, a local schoolteacher and youth activist, asked me:

“I have told you everything I know. And I am sure you have interviewed them too, right? Now tell me, honestly… do you think we are telling the truth, or do you believe in their story?”

I suddenly realized at that moment that I had lost my grip over the interview. In a quick turn of events, we had switched roles. And I was now being asked to pick a side.

How should a researcher respond to such a question? Should she answer honestly, knowing that she will be showing researcher bias? Or should she refrain, and explain to her research participant why she must remain impartial? 

No matter which way you go, your ethical responsibility as a researcher is challenged. 

You can read the full text at Undisciplined Environment.

New Prince Claus Chair puts Care at the centre of equity and development debates

From 1 September 2021 Dr Khayaat Fakier will hold the Prince Claus Chair (PCC) for a period of two years at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), part of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her thematic focus will be ‘Putting care at the center of equity and development: challenges for gender aware economies based on an ethics of care for people and the environment’.

As holder of the Prince Claus Chair, Dr Fakier will examine the issue of care in relation to equity and development policies. The two-year research project will examine how to build an ethics of care not only for people, but also for the environment. The intent of the research will be to see in what ways care work is ‘the alternative’ value to growth. Working in collaboration with Dutch and international networks her research will seek to define how we can build equitable economies where care work and care-ful relationships with society and nature are central to social and cultural life. The analysis will specifically take into account local communities’ responses to the pandemic.

Dr Fakier is a sociologist with a focus on research in women’s care for others and the environment. Dr Fakier gained her PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.  She is currently senior lecturer at Stellenbosch University and teaches modules on sociology of work, feminisms and women’s engagement in the South African economy. She supervises students on a wide range of feminist topics, including ecofeminism, fatherhood, women in the legal profession, and women in prisons.

Dr Fakier’s research examines the value of social reproduction in a global society where the unpaid work and care conducted by women is not recognised. Her research on the impact of social and industrial policy on the lives of women suggests that working class and underemployed women shoulder the burden of care for the young, the elderly, the frail and the environment, which most state and corporate policies ignore. Her work has featured in renowned international journals such as Antipode: Journal of Radical Geography, the International Journal of Feminist Politics, and Capitalism Nature Socialism. Her most recent publication is a co-edited book titled, Marxist-Feminist Theories and Struggles Today: Essential writings on Intersectionality, Labour and Ecofeminism published by Zed Books.

Dr Fakier’s writing draws on her work with women working in communities affected by mining, on farms, and women on public works programmes. WEGO-ITN’s coordinator, Prof. Dr. Wendy Harcourt will be acting as promoter of the new Prince Claus Chair.

Prince Claus Chair  

The Prince Claus Chair is a rotating chair. Appointments are made alternately at ISS in The Hague and Utrecht University. Both institutions use the chair to promote research and education in the field of development cooperation, in accordance with the views and ideas of the late Prince Claus of The Netherlands. The curatorium of the Prince Claus Chair is chaired by Professor Louise Gunning. Her Majesty Queen Máxima of The Netherlands is the patron of the Prince Claus Chair.

International Institute of Social Studies (ISS)

ISS is an international institute for research and education in the field of development studies. ISS is located in The Hague and is part of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Between 300 and 400 graduate students, mainly from the ‘Global South’, study at ISS each year. ISS is also home to a large community of PhD researchers.

For more information about the content of the 2021-3 term of the Prince Claus Chair, please contact WEGO-ITN’s coordinator, Professor dr Wendy Harcourt Professor of Gender, Diversity and Sustainable Developmentharcourt@iss.nl