New book: “Forces of Reproduction”

“In May 2011, Zé Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espirito Santo, nut collectors and members of the agroforestry project (Projeto Agro-Extractivista, PAE) of Praialta Piranheira in the Brazilian Amazon, were brutally murdered as a consequence of their engagement in protecting the forest from illegal logging and timber trafficking (Milanez, 2015). Making a living from a non-exploitative and regenerative relationship with the forest, and passionate about the defence of the rights of both Amazonia and its people, Maria and Zé Claudio’s deaths are among the number of earth defenders whose lives are being taken, year after year, for opposing the infinite expansion of global economic growth (Global Witness, 2017; Martínez-Alier, 2002). But their lives and labour belongto an even wider class, which Ariel Salleh (2010) has called the global meta-industrial labour class, made up of those less-than-humanized (racialized, feminized, dispossessed) subjects who reproduce humanity by taking care of the biophysical environment that makes life itself possible. I call them the forces of reproduction: they keep the world alive, yet their environmental agency goes largely unrecognized in mainstream narratives of that epoch of catastrophic earth-system changes that scientists have called the Anthropocene.”

This is how WEGO-ITN’s partner, Prof. Dr. Stefania Barca, begins her new book, “Forces of Reproduction“. She presented her publication today at an online seminar attended by 50 people, organised by Environmental Justice project.
“This book is a provocation. I want to challenge the so-called ‘master’s narrative’ on climate, the ‘green economy’ discourse, which is consistent with neoliberal practice and which sees nature as an investment opportunity”, said Prof. Barca at the seminar. “Zé Claudia and Maria are part of the non-hegemonic view. They are not victims of economic growth, they are agents of a counter-hegemonic power, in a ecofeminist sense.”

In the second part of the book, Prof. Barca also highlighted how the hegemonic view of the Anthropocene denied the possibility of existing different versions of modernity, by denying colonial relations, sex and gender relations, class relations and interspecies relations in their narratives.

You can see the whole seminar on Environmental Justice’s Youtube Channel.

“The Feminist Political Ecology Podcast”, by WEGO, is out

WEGO-ITN is launching its first podcast!

“The Feminist Political Ecology Podcast” is directed to those who believe in doing environmentalism, justice and feminism in a different way. Every episode we’ll invite researchers, activists and professors in- and outside our network to discuss the most urgent and inspiring topics around feminist political ecology. Stay tuned.

The first episode, with Early Stage Researcher Marlene Gómez, is out:

“What does care have to do with food waste? And what can we learn about commoning by looking into alternative food practices? In our first episode, we will talk to Marlene Gómez, a PhD-candidate at Freie Universität Berlin and Early Stage Researcher at WEGO, about her work in community kitchens in Berlin and Barcelona.”

 

 

 

New essay: “Creating regenerative spaces of learning and unlearning”

WEGO-ITN’s coordinator, Prof. Dr. Wendy Harcourt, has published a new essay in hegoa – Institute for International Cooperation and Development Studies. Read the introduction, in English, here and access the full version at Hegoa’s hariak, January 2021 edition, in Spanish and in Basque.

 

“My point of departure for this essay on feminist pedagogy, is to begin with my discomfort in (dis)locating gender as a universal category, the imposition of gender and development through colonial history and how the western understanding of knowledge fractures and makes invisible other forms of being in community. Those three points of departure indicate the troubling nature of writing about privilege of race, age, class and gender when I write about the depatricarchalisation of knowledge and how my knowledge is embedded and embodied in a historical westerncentric understandings of gender, bodies and oppression. And to complicate the authorial voice further, I am constantly challenged by my complicity in systems of privilege. The essay builds on collective learning from years of actions and conversations with feminists, scholar activists and students and engagement in inspiring texts, films, videos and art that have introduced me to otherwise knowledges.

I write as a white settler antiracist feminist Australian who has lived in Europe since the late 1980s as a feminist advocate and writer on gender and critical development studies, and who more recently, has been teaching in an international post graduate institute in The Netherlands for nearly a decade. My contribution over the years has been mostly in popular
rather than academic writing, though I have now done my apprenticeship in the cut throat world of academic journals. I continue to write from the personal and from the experiential rather than the theoretical, though I am inspired by theoretical texts. I see myself in conversation with theory because theory helps me to puzzle out what I see as contested or
difficult.

My way of writing is to tell stories that have generated discomfort for me and to share with the reader what that discomfort can do to productively decentre the white masculine heteronormative experience as the only subject of knowledge. In taking up this invitation to discuss the depatriarchalization of knowledge through emancipatory education, experience and experiments, I will tell three stories that suggest how I have engaged in pedagogical practices otherwise.”

Read the full text here, in Spanish and in Basque.

 

Letter in support of farmers’ protests in India

WEGO-ITN partners and researchers – together with dozens of international academics – share their support for farmers’ protests in India, in a letter published today by The Independent. The protests have been taking place since mid-2020 and the response of the Indian government has raised concerns among international development academics. Read the full letter and it signatories here:

 

Letter in support of farmers’ protests in India 

As international development academics, we are deeply concerned about the Indian government’s treatment of the farmers’ protests in India. For over two months, millions of farmers have been protesting peacefully against three new market-friendly farm bills. These were passed by prime minister Narendra Modi’s National Democratic Alliance government without full discussions in parliament.

These laws pave the way for billionaire-owned corporate control over India’s agri-food system and will have serious impacts on the price and procurement of farm produce. Farming incomes have already been declining steadily due to India’s longstanding agrarian crisis. The new laws will have a devastating impact on farming livelihoods, especially for small and marginal farmers, who face being pushed into poverty. The reforms also weaken the rights of agricultural workers, especially female informal workers.

The new laws include dismantling the public distribution system (PDS), which will compromise food and livelihood security and constitute an attack on India’s constitutional right to food.

Since 26 January, when thousands of farmers marched into New Delhi, the government has cracked down on farmers, their supporters and journalists covering the protests. This adds to the poor human rights record of Modi’s government prior to and during the pandemic, including arresting students, activists and journalists for exercising their constitutional right to peaceful protest.

India’s mainstream media has vilified Sikh protesting farmers as terrorists and the government has launched  a vicious campaign branding protesters and their supporters as “anti-national”. The internet has been blocked around Delhi, and roads are barricaded. We urge the Indian government to restrain from authoritarianism and respect citizens’ freedom of expression and right to protest. We also call on the Indian government to repeal the new farm laws and enter into dialogue with the protesting farmers.

Professor Lyla Mehta, Institute of Development Studies, UK

Professor Vinita Damodaran, University of Sussex, UK

Dr Shilpi Srivastava, Institute of Development Studies, UK

For a full list of signatories, click here

Entrelazamientos entre la Economía Solidaria y el Degrowth. Una perspectiva desde un corazón latino

Hoy me desperté a las 6:45 am, como de costumbre. Decidí que hoy sería un día productivo, como de costumbre, pero no lo fue. “Das Leben läuft nicht besonders gut, nicht nur für mich, sondern für alle”. Bueno, para algunos magnates de Wall Street la pandemia ha sido el mejor escenario para generar profits.

Hoy no me siento con ganas de escribir en inglés, entonces boté la tesis y comencé a escribir esto que prometí escribiría para nuestro proyecto de WEGO en español. We want to reach more audiences. Hace tiempo que quiero escribir en mi lengua natal, el español. Y es que, aunque es una lengua colonizadora, es la lengua que nos une a todes les latines! Cuando llegué por primera vez a The Hague, a formar parte de la red WEGO me topé con conceptos que nunca había escuchado en inglés. Uno de ellos fue Degrowth, o descrecimiento, como lo conocemos en América Latina. Yo me preguntaba, pues cómo que Degrowth, para dónde o cómo? Desde dónde se agarra impulso o cómo se va uno para atrás? Se me hacía tan raro escuchar esa palabra. Y es que yo me formé en teoría descolonial, estudié ciencia política y geografía, y aunque mi tesis la escribí con el economista Dr. Boris Marañon, nosotros no hablamos de Degrowth. Junto con él me di un clavado en los temas descoloniales, tenía yo 20 años. Para él la discusión del Degrowth no era tan relevante. Él es peruano. Para él era relevante teorizar sobre la economía solidaria, sobre trueque, sobre monedas alternativas, sobre el andino Sumak Kawsay y el Sumaq Qamana, todo desde América Latina. No descartábamos el descrecimiento, pero éramos conscientes de que retomarlo significaría agarrarle la mano a Europa, otra vez.

Yo desarrollé mi pensamiento a su lado. Trabajé con él en el Instituto de Economía de la UNAM. Juntos fuimos a encuentros de mercados alternativos, de trueques, de sentipensares. El español no reinaba, se hablaba Zapoteco, Mazahua, Tzotzil, y otros idiomas de los pueblos originarios de México. Ahí aprendí de diversidad, de practicar, de compartir y de sentir. También me hice consciente de mis privilegios, que aunque en mi familia vivimos tiempos de pobreza, yo salí blanca, y eso ya me da ventaja. Yo sólo tenía 20 años, y cada día aprendía algo nuevo y mantenía firme la esperanza de que otros mundos son posibles. Hablábamos de economía solidaria y de solidaridad económica no de Degrowth, no de descreciemiento.

Regresando a Europa, a The Hague, al doctorado. Hice mi marco teórico. Comencé a analizar food waste/desperdicio de comida, care, the commons.. I saw on the management of food waste/ desperdicio de comida the potential development of other economies. Y desarrollando mi marco teórico me encontré ante una gama alta de categorizaciones. La pregunta era: cómo teorizar esas prácticas de economía que identifiqué en las prácticas de gobernanza del food waste/desperdicio de comida? Me decidí por enmarcarlas en las teorizaciones de la economía solidaria. Decidí no utilizar el concepto de community economies o el de Degrowth por las siguientes razones. La economía solidaria pone en el centro de las relaciones económicas las prácticas de reciprocidad. Esto significa que un bien tanto material como inmaterial se mueve en direcciones multilaterales y genera relaciones de responsabilidad entre los sujetos. Es decir, el bien es entregado a alguien, ese alguien lo acepta, pero tiene la responsabilidad de regresarlo. En tiempos y espacios diferentes y en acciones o servicios diferentes al bien entregado, claro. Esto crea sin duda lazos de responsabilidad entre las partes y gestos de cuidado al procurar tener que devolver un bien. La economía solidaria teorizada en América Latina rescata la idea de la reciprocidad de sociedades originarias. La práctica fundadora de relaciones sociales se encontraba basada en las prácticas de trueque y reciprocidad. Eran otras civilizaciones, otra economía. En este contexto, la economía solidaria apuesta por la consolidación de otra economía, pero reconoce que el capitalismo es un mal que no es fácil de acabar ni de transformar. Es así que practicar economía solidaria significa consolidar un eje fundacional para la organización social, económica y política dentro de los linderos del capitalismo.

El degrowth en cambio pone en su núcleo la discusión del crecimiento económico y el consumo. Es un término atractivo como una apuesta para censurar o disminuir el crecimiento de sectores económicos y el reparto del trabajo. Es un proyecto político que busca reivindicar una vida otra. Busca una reorganización de la sociedad desde una perspectiva en la que se reafirma el rescate del derecho a la vida misma por sobre el consumo, la organización capitalista del trabajo y la explotación de la naturaleza. Se busca una desvinculación de la vida con respecto al dinero. Se busca recuperar lo local frente a la organización global capitalista. El degrowth busca repensar la organización de la vida por la vida misma. La pregunta aquí sería cómo comenzamos a hacer eso sin una base política que practique en su vida cotidiana gestos de intercambio y reciprocidad? Cómo imaginar sociedades en descrecimiento que no han generado vínculos solidarios entre los sujetos? Cómo imaginar una economía local sin caer en la reproducción de prácticas neoliberales?

En suma, el Degrowth es un proyecto político con una apuesta inmensa por un cambio social, mientras que la economía solidaria es un proyecto político acompañado por una transformación de valores que se construyen desde abajo. La economía solidaria no compite directamente con el capital, sino que comienza a apropiarse de sus espacios. Comienza a construir redes y busca consolidar lazos solidarios para la fundación de una sociedad basada en el cuidado entre los sujetos y entre los sujetos con la naturaleza.

Call for contributions for “Spaces of Possibility”- Conference and Exhibition

Our colleagues at RECOMS, a Marie Skłodowska-Curie ITN that started around the same time as WEGO and covers fairly similar topics, are organising an international confex (Conference + Exhibition) in Brussels from the 7th till the 11th of June 2021. The event is titled ‘Spaces of Possibility: communities and places in times of social and environmental uncertainty’ and is open to anyone who is interested in the themes of community-driven transformation, socio-environmental justice and creative methods. The programme will include exciting keynotes, creative workshops, interactive sessions, a policy roundtable and guided tours of the exhibition.

Do you want to be part of this compelling programme by presenting your work, facilitating a workshop or initiating a debate? The call for contributions (presentation & full session proposals) is now open! The thematic tracks are:

  • Systems and structures
  • Representation and justice
  • Material places and embodied practices
  • Sustainability research as co-creative practice

For more info on the themes, deadlines and other practicalities, visit the event’s webpage:
https://recoms.eu/content/recoms-confex

 

COVID-19 NOTE: Please note that the event is planned to be organised in-person adhering to strict safety and health regulations. However, if this will not be possible in light of further development of the pandemic, the conference part of the programme will be held online. The event will under no circumstances be cancelled or postponed.

New book: “Negotiating Gender Expertise in Environment and Development”

Our partner Prof. Dr. Rebecca Elmhirst, from the University of Brighton, together with Dr. Bernadette Resurrección, released a new book in December 2020: “Negotiating Gender Expertise in Environment and Development – Voices from Feminist Political Ecology”, by Routledge.

This book casts a light on the daily struggles and achievements of ‘gender experts’ working in environment and development organisations, where they are charged with advancing gender equality and social equity and aligning this with visions of sustainable development.

Developed through a series of conversations convened by the book’s editors with leading practitioners from research, advocacy and donor organisations, this text explores the ways gender professionals – specialists and experts, researchers, organizational focal points – deal with personal, power-laden realities associated with navigating gender in everyday practice. In turn, wider questions of epistemology and hierarchies of situated knowledges are examined, where gender analysis is brought into fields defined as largely techno-scientific, positivist and managerialist.

An open access version of this book is freely available at: https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/e/9781351175180 

Meeting and Caring with a group of feminist activists in Indonesia

Cancelled weddings, work challenges, homesickness, menstruation talks, loss of friends to Covid-19. Even with all the hardships, our enthusiasm at the Ruang Baca Puan Collective did not subside to promote activism and cultivate feminist literacy.

Since last year, I have initiated, along with local activists from Java, Kalimantan and Sumatra Islands, the establishment of Ruang Baca Puan Collective’s, as a reading room and literacy collaboration for Indonesian women. On January 23 2021, the Ruang Baca Puan Collective had its first meeting in 2021. We are composed by ten women of different ages, professions, religions, education, and from different island, who are united by activism and feminist literacy.  Unfortunately, two of the members were unable to join the meeting: Fiqoh, a very busy labour union leader, and Sartika, who had to deal with her early pregnancy. The rest, eight of us – four people in Samarinda and Bengalon, East Kalimantan province, one person in North Sumatra province, two other people in Jakarta, a WALHI / Friend of the Earth Indonesia activist and a high school student, and I, myself, in Passau, Germany. Together, we coordinate the Collective, including organising an ecofeminist Literacy Course which will start next month.  It seems the COVID-19 pandemic has created a more shortened space and time through online platforms. The boundaries separating global and local community become thinner and even borderless, as if the air or the landscape that is originally not limited by administration.

The online meeting began with collective “care”. We shared news on what we are going through, so that we are aware and supporting one another, if needed. I use the term ‘care’ not in the shallow meaning when it translates to ‘peduli’  in Indonesian language.  ‘Care’ here is in the context of ‘politics of care’, it is beyond the meaning of “peduli”, which sounds more superficial. It is ‘care’ in a more political sense, for instance, I became an activist because I care for myself (self-care), my community, and nature. 

The collective ‘care’ was a fun and emotional part, there were many stories told. One of the members said, “I haven’t had my period for 8 months.” She then reflected on why her body reacted this way. As it turned out, this was because of her lifestyle that has changed slovenly, irregular eating, eating junk food such as soft drinks, and lack of sleep. Recently, her gout has recurred so her family was worried and took her to the doctor. However, after she changed her lifestyle into a healthier one, her body began to make peace with herself. She was celebrating the return of her menstrual cycle. 

Image: Voni Novita

Another member said that she has grown a keen interest in growing plants since she has to work from home due to the pandemic. We’re shown pictures of her small yard that looks nice and green. She has become increasingly paranoid because COVID-19 is now close to her family’s circle. The collective members who live in East Kalimantan also feel the same way. Interestingly, there are many COVID-19 clusters around coal mining sites, where many people come and go. One of the company contractors of Kaltim Prima Coal, the largest coal mine in Indonesia, is known to have more than 1000 employees affected by COVID-19. Unfortunately, these clusters have not been widely discussed because they don’t want the money machines for the oligarchs to decrease. Despite the workers falling sick, the extraction machines don’t stop. 

The capitalist economic system has always found its way to increase profits in the midst of crisis. I remember the protest against Omnibus Law in Jakarta and around Indonesia in October – November last year which was ratified by the central Government and Parliament in times of pandemic. This law is a legal product  that will make it easier for mining companies to access permits, operate without proper Environmental  Impact Assessment, and even get free royalties. In the meantime, the local communities who live in the area where the natural resources are continuously extracted, have to suffer multiple times. The Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM) in its report last year stated that the local community had been hit by mines, and now were being hit  by a global pandemic.

Another interesting story shared in our meeting is about healing after a failed wedding. One member of the collective told us, “In the last two months my life has been so hard, it’s like a roller coaster ride,” she said. She failed to get married last year, and had to heal not only herself, but also her family. On important note, she and her partner consciously agreed to cancel the wedding even though the invitation had been spread out to the public. At least she managed to calm her family down and made peace with herself. I was glad to hear her story about finding a way to heal her mother by keeping her busy planting ornamental plants at home. “The key is buying her flower pots and providing her flower seeds,” she said. I was even amazed to hear that she decided to attend her cousin’s wedding, who got married for the second time. She has prepared herself to answer the stigma of unmarried women or women who failed to get married. She had expected the conversation to turn out to be, “Your cousin has been married twice, you even failed to have one.” I agree with her, a big smile is the most civilized way of responding to that sentence in a society that considers marriage as an obligation, the end of achievement, promotion to higher degree and noble path to heaven.

Even so, there was a member of the collective whose activities remained unbothered. Her name is Delvi. I met her in Central Kalimantan last year. At that time she was an activist for Women’s Solidarity. Now, she is in Brastagi, North Sumatra. Even when we met online, she was at her mother’s coffee shop in a busy traditional market in Brastagi. Every now and then she would stop the conversation because he had to serve the customers. “There are lots of talks in this coffee shop, from gossip to politics,” she said. Her relationship with customers is very close. “We can even ask for free vegetables or fruits, if their goods are kept in the shop,” she added.

I, in Germany, had a very different story. I am studying Feminist Political Ecology  with the chair of Comparative Development and  Cultural Studies at University of Passau. In the past week we’re required to wear N95 masks on public spaces – any kind of cloth mask is prohibited. All shops including restaurants are closed since before Christmas, and only raw food stores are open. The school’s teaching and learning system is conducted online, although some offices are still open, they are recommended to work from home. As predicted, the winter season has made it difficult for the number COVID-19 cases to fall. Europe is now entering the second wave of COVID-19, including Passau, a city where I live with a population of about 50 thousand people, located on the German-Austrian border.

Even though there are those who failed to get married, had their menstruation stopped for 8 months, unable to return to their hometowns, and lost their close friend because of COVID-19, our collective enthusiasm with the Ruang Baca Puan Collective  does not subside to promote activism and cultivate feminist literacy.

The Ruang Baca Puan Collective  was originally a reading group of Vandana Shiva’s works, which consisted of  environmental justice activist part of  the networking of TKPT, JATAM and JATAM East Kalimantan. Last year, we discussed Vandana Shiva’s books on ecofeminism, including a critique of the essentialization of women’s roles. This discussion then inspired us to share knowledge through the Women Reading Room which was made opened to young girls in summer 2020. There were around 119 participants who registered and only 20 people were selected to take online classes from June to September 2020. Some of the alumnae later joined the Ruang Baca Puan Collective and will organise the first feminist literacy course in the rain season January – May 2021. Last week, they held a book discussion of “Feminism for the 99%, A Manifesto”. We are proud to be able to do it collaboratively and collectively. 

 

What does the Ruang Baca Puan Collective do? Visit our website on www.pejuangtanahair.org   

Environment and Sustainability in the globalised classroom

A students’ review of Andrea Nightingale’s book “Environment and sustainability in a globalizing world”.

Back in 2019, at the beginning of the winter semester, we were sitting in a blank white classroom at the University of Passau, in Germany, waiting for Dr. Martina Padmanabhan to start a MSc course titled “Sustainability”. Looking at each other’s confused faces, we silently understood that only a few of us had any experience in this field. Of course, we had heard the term before, but we simply and broadly related it to ‘the environment’. We didn’t yet know how many facets the study of “sustainability” could reveal to us. We were a class of master students from different ethnicities, cultures and with different backgrounds: business, economy, history, culture studies.

The book Environment and Sustainability in a Globalizing World is edited and co-written by Andrea Nightingale –a well-known scholar in the political ecology field, who currently teaches at the University of Oslo. The book became the key text of our course and this blog sprouted from the process of learning and discussing on the topic of sustainability in class, and from the interlaced creativity between the students and the teacher. We here then attempt to review this book collectively, as an interdisciplinary group of students who do not have much experience in the field. Yet, we think our modest reflections could inspire some readers to become more curious about the multi-layered concept of sustainability.

Read the full text here.

WEGO and Feminist Political Ecology

The Innovative Training Network WEGO (“Well-being, Ecology, Gender and Community) was born in the Convent of Santa Maria del Giglio in Bolsena, Italy, resulting from the meeting of several women active in academic research and feminist organisations. The Institute of Social Studies of the Erasmus University in The Hague was responsible for organising the meeting in July 2016, which allowed to share research done and various practices motivated by a deep concern around the ecological crisis and global inequality. The exchange was oriented towards the preparation of an academic project aimed at supporting doctoral students from different parts of the world to investigate around topics associated with Feminist Political Ecology (FPE) and the care economy, transcending the logic of individual theses to work in a collective process that would reflect in practice the vision of transformation that guides the project. In January 2017 this one was presented to the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Marie Sklodowska – Curie research and innovation programme, which granted its support to the initiative. In 2018 it began to operate with 15 doctoral students, scholar-activists working in ten universities in Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom where the students are doing their PhDs, and ten partner institutions in Australia, India, Indonesia, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, Uruguay and USA, which accompany the students in their field work with a role of training and secondments. 

In those exchanges that resulted in the creation of the network, there was not only a deep concern about the global crisis in its multiple dimensions, but also about the big picture response anchored in the very same processes and views that originated the current situation. That is, mainstream development policies and programs, even if under the name of Sustainable Development Goals, Green Economy and other denominations, aim at continuing with business as usual under a name that seems to be more caring for the environment but that only deepens the dominant practices and their negative impacts on life in its diversity. In response to this situation, a group of scholars and socially engaged women came together around two core ideas: the potential of transformation and innovation of Feminist Political Ecology and the need for another type of research that is based on epistemic justice and makes visible the knowledge and everyday strategies pioneered by ordinary people and communities. From there, the following objectives were agreed upon:

  • Establish a network of excellence around FPE that links researchers, communities and policy makers so as to have an impact in the environment and development policy arena and contribute to positive change for the communities involved in the research.
  • Support the emergence of a new generation of Early Stage Researchers in a societally relevant research platform.
  • Consolidate FPE as a key conceptual approach to resilience and sustainability by bringing fresh perspectives on gender to the policy space of environment and development opened by the SDG.

Feminist Political Ecology is at the centre of the work carried out by the network. As with other concepts, we could not present a single definition, nor does WEGO have a final agreement on what all of its members understand about this shared framework of analysis. The collective construction of the conceptualization about FPE is part of the challenge. Several ideas are part of this conceptualization and motivate the work of the network:

  • FPE looks at the dynamics of gender relations and how they determine ecological, technological, political and economic processes. It analyses how gender power relations shape resource access and control; the decision-making processes and socio-political forces that influence development and environmental policies; the way in which policy can take into account the complex layers that make up people’s relations to their environment; the culture- and knowledge- specific influences into sustainable practices; knowledge production related to nature (and processes by which some of these are made irrelevant by the dominant perspective); the relations between humans and non-humans; among other dimensions.
  • Feminist political ecology questions the simplification of adding women to statistical data and the narratives that present women as victims of environmental crisis. It highlights the engagement of women as political actors with the capacity to produce relevant knowledge, implement creative and sustainable ways to relate to nature, question power relations that reproduce gender inequalities in decisions about environmental policies. It looks at day to day experiences with a politically aware approach that promotes grounded and engaged research to understand and made visible political processes including the emotions and embodied reactions and responses of people and communities to economic, social and environmental change, in order to promote sustainable alternatives, resilience and wellbeing.
  • The structuring axis of FPE is relational, based on the recognition of the interconnectedness of all forms of life. While the dominant patriarchal mode of development is based on domination and exploitation (over bodies, cultures, nature), FPE promotes a transition based on the day to day practices of women, men, transgender, queer, non-binary and other subjectivities and their communities to sustain ecologically viable livelihoods. The shaping of these livelihoods takes place within the tension between autonomous and diverse imaginaries and the impositions of capitalist globalisation. 

In order to contribute towards this transition, WEGO set out to research around three main themes:  

  1. Climate Change, Economic Development and Extractivism

Under this theme, the research centres on community responses to climate change, neoliberal capitalism and extractivist development processes. The focus is on the daily social struggles in response to economic and ecological changes, and on the organisation of communities and their efforts to overcome situations of inequality, exclusion and poverty. Among the areas to be addressed are “the cultural dimensions of gender and the politics of transformation” that allow us to show how the new socio-material arrangements are shaped by and in turn shape new cultural repertoires, offering or imposing new cultural ways of being, relating and identifying. 

Although in each topic there is a diversity of subtopics that students investigate, the shared framework in this case includes the following concerns: connections that are shaped by new modalities and scales of governing the resources from regulation by national governments towards investment agreements, and from regional and national to international scales; forms of social mobilisation to defend water and food security, energy, livelihoods and demand fair labour conditions in new ways of articulating scales of governance and connecting people; nodes of connection and alliances across different spatial scales, looking not only at the material and socio-spatial elements of resource-reallocation and commodity production but also at histories of class- caste- and gender struggles. 

2. Commoning, Community economies and the politics of care

In this topic, the exploration focuses on identifying how different communities are producing new forms of resource management based on non-extractivist development practices as well as survival strategies based on community economic practices and the value of care and living well together. The focus of the various research projects will be on the emerging practices of communing, community economies and care from a gender perspective. 

The shared frame for this theme has to do with observing how communities are being more resilient and sustainable, for which some common observation points are: ‘commoning’ efforts to both promote the recovery of food security and their communities; care practices in interconnected spaces; subjectivities (masculinities and feminities) to create and enable a more inclusive community and commitment to place;  market rationalities in the shift to alternative ideas of sustainable livelihoods; entrepreneurial practices and resource management by community groups linking rural producers and urban consumers; political and ecological consequences of new value chains and how they intersect with notions of class, gender, religion (caste) and age. 

3. Nature/Culture, technologies and embodiment

This topic engages with the interdependence of bodies, ecologies and technologies in the studies of body politics and political ecology. The focus of this theme is on communities embodied experience of economic and ecological change and ways to think beyond assumed technological, scientific and social boundaries between nature and culture. 

Within the framework of this topic, the research transcends the conventional approach on nature that separates human beings from their environments, and aims to analyse how bodies, technologies and economies should be understood as an integral part of our material environment and of ecological practices and theory. Common aspects to be analyzed include: the concept of nature-culture and how to look at the interrelationship between humans and non-humans in the framework of changing ecologies and economies; the emerging narratives that can unmake and make new worlds as we reinvent and “turn” to new eco-criticism and new eco-politics; the interdependence of technologies, ecologies and bodies and their implication in political frameworks for sustainable development. 

 

WEGO in 2021 and beyond

The 15 research projects were proposed within the framework of these three major themes and in 2019 several of them began their field work. The global pandemic of COVID 19 had an impact on these projects and on the network as a whole, as it has happened massively throughout the world. WEGO’s work continued in 2020, primarily in virtual form. Some projects were reformulated, in some cases in dialogue with the communities and groups based in the different territories, in others remotely given the emergency that determined the return of several of the doctoral students to their places of study or prevented the development of field work. In spite of these difficulties, a Training Lab was organised in June 2020 for all WEGO members, where each of these projects was analysed and debated in depth, and thorough debates also took place around the very conceptualisation of feminist political ecology.  

Before and after the Training Lab, the students have been working among themselves and with the rest of the network around changes and tensions in relation to the projects: categorisations, concepts, emergence of questions linked to epistemic violence, privileges within the academy, situated knowledge and the role of Eurocentric institutions, research ethics and its relationship with a care perspective, among several other dimensions. The path travelled, the learnings and new questions, the exchanges inside and outside the network, generated interest in capturing this process and the exploration around Feminist Political Ecology in a publication. The idea is to work collectively towards the completion of the projects and, through this publication, contribute to generate a dialogue around FPE and its possible contributions towards a social, economic and ecological transition (transitions). Likewise, and as part of that process of contributing to the conceptualization of FPE and of strengthening networking and diversity, members of WEGO will contribute with articles and other inputs to be shared in this same space.