The retreat in Palazzo Orzi, Grotte di Castro, attended by 17 people, had the important task of consolidating the work of WEGO-ITN 2018-22, as well as setting new directions for the network for the next two years. The focus was on how to continue to build the network as an inclusive, responsible, ethical and caring place for members and others to do activist research on feminist political ecology with communities.
The retreat reviewed the results of WEGO-ITN’s 4 and half years and how to continue (taking into account economic resources) as the network consolidates and expands. This included what kind of activities, research, mentoring and partnering, the network will do in order to take up our responsibilities with communities to do follow up transformative research ‘otherwise’.
Our time in the Grotte was intentionally a slow meeting, with time to reflect, dream, discuss and debate in the beautiful Palazzo, home of the Orzi family. The meeting’s agenda evolved with the input of the people there building an agenda which helped us consider how we would work together and expand our outreach over the next two years. The conversation was guided by the coordinating team with lots of breaks, group work, and times to enjoy each other’s company as we chatted, prepared meals, cleaned and eat together.
The setting is often what makes or breaks the success of a retreat. The Palazzo Orzi was a special place and Gaia and her parents were wonderful hosts. The Palazzo is a family home with many treasures from Etruscan vases, stately furniture and original paintings, and with frescoed ceilings. Despite the splendour, it was cosy and warm. While we were mostly tucked away in our workshop, discussing in the commodious sitting room, eating out in the garden under ancient trees, there were times to walk around the medieval town. We had some memorable meals in Grotte in a wonderful trattoria just up the road – ‘Aglio ,Olio and Pepperoncino.’ And we had one afternoon eating fish by the lake. In the day Gaia had provided local cheese and fruit. We found space for everyone to sleep in the Palazzo, whether in side-rooms, or cool ground rooms, or walk-through corridors. Wherever we found ourselves in the Palazzo, our hosts and their friendliness (and the food and wine!) made it a special and caring time.
Our time was nourishing and productive. We agreed that the network would continue as an activist research network, that would continue to experiment and learn from what is happening around us as we navigate individual and institutional global uncertainty and disruption. WEGO-ITN has found quite some skills in navigating Covid with care and support for each other face to face and in virtual spaces inside and outside the academe. And we face increasingly difficult times – marked by the pandemic and climate crisis and increasing economic precarity and political violence including wars.
So, even if the EU funding is over, the network will continue as a feminist network with (thankfully for the coordinators in particular), less bureaucratic demands. The focus will continue to be Feminist Political Ecology doing activist research, networking ‘otherwise’ across the diversities of territories, institutions, languages, etc that mark us. It was such a privilege to be building our past, present and future relations in beautiful spaces such as the Palazzo and in sight of Lago di Bolsena, quietly reminding us about the presence of more-than-human others in our life worlds.
More FPE Dialogues to come!
Officially WEGO-ITN has completed its work in June 2022 and the coordinating team are working on the final report. But the network will continue, as decided in both The Hague training in April the and June retreat. The Contours of Feminist Political Ecology is now being copyedited for publication in late 2022/ early 2023. The 10 articles for the special issues of Journal of Peasant Studies are being prepared for publication in 2023 along with a Routledge bool. From September 2022 onwards the network will recommence monthly networking meetings to continue to provide support for PhDs who are in the final stages of their PhD and to plan for a new network which will be called FEST* (feminist ecological solidarities for transformation). The Coordinating team along with other WEGO PhDs and mentors will continue to steer the network until summer 2024.
This new direction for WEGO will help to consolidate and expand the network through a series of FPE Dialogues which will feature activist research with communities engaged in intersectional intergenerational environment justice arenas. Inspired by Pangea A-Sud encounter FPE Dialogues will be about engaging at local and global levels activists and researchers particularly in the global south. The Fest* network, along with other local and global networks will bring together communities’ stories and strategies. Plans are for a return to Grotte di Castro in 2023 and in 2024 a celebratory reunion for all PhD students who have completed their PhD journey. Further suggestions include to apply to Bellagio for a FPE dialogue on the ‘Politics of Enough for Building Thriving Communities’, holding skills workshops on how to communicate and teach FPE as well as locally organized FPE Dialogues in South Africa, and Argentina covering topics such as resilience of rural women farmers and rethinking bodies, territories and land.
For those interested in organizing or joining FPE Dialogues and Fest* please contact: Wendy Harcourt (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The final WEGO training lab, attended in person by 20 people in The Hague in April, was a time to take stock of all that WEGO-ITN had achieved as well as to plan for the final months of WEGO-ITN as PhDs complete their thesis, and the network looked forward to what is to come.
The five days together allowed members of WEGO to reflect on the experience of being part of an ITN during an era of disruption – disruptions which are fast becoming the ‘new normal’. The training was a moment to consolidate what WEGO as a network has learnt about how to do meaningful and care-full research as the world faces on-going climate crisis, future pandemics, wars, economic and political uncertainty and reversals on gains made. The time together in The Hague was an opportunity to move forward, soberly aware and thankful that the network’s years together provided tools that will guide our individual and collective resilience in the future.
As the training lab showed, WEGO has kept going despite disruptions. It has adapted and innovated – and as the many website posts testify, WEGO has produced a lot. WEGO has built a network and made connections that have proved resilient. WEGO had to become experimental in it research approach and in the activities PhDs could do, proving to be flexible, dealing with individual, institutional and global uncertainties. WEGO found personal, academic and activist skills as it went virtual, and found ways to do research on-line, participating in many on-line dialogues, and reaching out to the people inside and outside the academe.
The flow of the meeting
The training lab proved to be valuable space to harvest the lessons on how WEGO individually and collectively learnt over this period to find resilience. The meeting was a hybrid one, physically taking place in the WEGO coordinating Institute – the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam. The plenaries took place in the attic and big Aula and some of the class rooms where people could join on-line. As well as plenary discussions and working groups there were the face to face discussions in the ISS Butterfly Bar, including the launch of Feminist Methodology book. WEGO also frequented different local venues to eat together enjoying the different cuisines that an international community city like the ISS and the surroundings in the centre of the Hague can provide.
It was an intense few days together. For many of those who came to The Hague, it was the first face to face meeting after two and more years of Covid. Recognising that, participants tested each day and wore masks. Two PhDs and several mentors joined on-line for specific events and trainings. For those in The Hague it felt very special to be together. There were many walks and informal conversations. There was a chance to discuss the research of each PhD and mentor (the summaries of which were shared ahead of time) but also time to discuss the strategies of how we coped emotionally and need to continue coping in this new normal of living with Covid and climate crisis.
As well as plenary discussions and workshops there was also material for thinking creatively – with crochet and drawing and painting as well as clay available for those who wanted to use their hands while thinking and discussing. As a research network it was instructive to think about how each of us navigated the sudden disruptions and changes to what an ITN ‘should’ be as all academic and activists meetings and research went on-line. We discussed how we created new spaces such as on-line exhibitions, conferences, research meetings on-line, vlogging etc. We wondered if this was just about learning new tools or did it mean finding new ways to connect and do research? As a feminist network that spoke about care, did WEGO provide not only technological but also emotional support for ourselves and others to survive difficult times? What kinds of relationships did WEGO build, virtually, in-place – politically and culturally? How do we plan to give feedback to communities/ academic institutions/ allies/ EU administration?
The Lab Programme
The 5 day programme was planned in the preceding monthly on-line meetings and via a shared google doc. The meeting reflected this collaborative process with a strong sense of inclusion and collective responsibility. Each day was designed to engage and focus on content and process, with space for many different kinds of conversations as well as time to enjoy each other’s company. Each day there was at least one (formal) social moment, most of them outside the ISS, including a trip down to the beach.
Day one was devoted to getting to know each other again and how we have engaged as a network of FPE scholars. The idea was a slow start with time to talk and discuss what has happened over the last years. The ombudsperson created some ground rules which were shared and discussed. In the first session her guidelines were established about how to respect and hold space for a creative learning time together ‘living the talk’ of a feminist network that centres relations of care.
Day two focused on the chapters of the FPE Contours book – with detailed feedback on the draft by other authors and chance for authors to meet together to discuss the required changes. The book will be out end of the year. See the latest table of contents:
Day three featured network business – ethics, an executive meeting and a discussion around the Ombudperson report on how we learnt to work as a network ‘with care’.
Day four was on skills building for the PhDs to complete their PhD and meet EU requirements. There was a parallel hybrid supervisory meeting where mentors shared what they learnt from WEGO and what direction they wanted the future of the network to take.
The ISS staff shared the following tips and tricks on how to do a funding proposal for the PhDs. See:
Day five looked at where WEGO will go as a network – putting together a ‘wish list’ and further reflections on how to give back to communities.
WEGO-ITN future research and networking
The concluding session put together the ideas for where the network can expand which was further elaborated in the June retreat (link to web report).
The following ideas for research and networking have emerged from WEGO to date and it was proposed they can be developed over the next two years.
Collaborative teaching and writing
develop FPE on-line course/collective teaching curriculum/ teaching tools/ videos etc.
organise an annual encounters /writing retreats/ learning how write for different audiences
Researching further topics such as:
Feminism as transformation Feminist theory; Feminist and subaltern movements and Intersectional feminist ethics of care)
Alternatives to capitalism/mainstream development processes Degrowth; Decoloniality (indigenous cosmologies); Pluriverse (post development); Community economies and Commoning
Climate justice and critical agrarian studies Climate colonialism; extractivism; Gender and pastoralism; Politics of food and Farming and necropolitics
Body politics Embodiment, health and technologies; Ageing and generations; crip politics and ableism; Sexual and reproductive justice; population and kinning
More-than-human relations Co-becoming with water; Earthcare; Learning otherwise and Queer ecologies
Engaging with communities:
organise dissemination workshops
do podcasts, radio shows
design FPE comics/zines/school modules
write stories for non-academic audiences
write timely policy briefs
translate FPE to and from different languages
plan subversive research actions (ie guerilla archeology)
support exchanges among WEGOinstitutions and partners for future research projects
consolidate relations with research partners already engaged with WEGO such as degrowth, Undisciplined Environments, CERN, POLLEN, Decolonial Cost Action etc.
Expand to more places in the Global South (To date the network has institutional links in the Global North: The Netherlands, Italy, Germany, UK, Spain, Norway, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan – and Global South: Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, India, Nepal, Indonesia, Kenya, South Africa.
Rome, 17 June 2022 – Pangea Foundation and WEGO-ITN organized the “Wangari Maathai” workshop in collaboration with the association A Sud.
The aim of the event was to create a space for women working in different fields linked to feminism and ecology to come together and exchange experiences, practices, knowledge and opinions.
Women activists, entrepreneurs, politicians, researchers met and created new nexuses between theories and practices, new definitions and possible actions. Around 40 women working on gender and the environment participated in the workshop (take a look at some of their bios below), some coming from different parts of Italy and abroad. Participants presented and positioned themselves and shared their definition of ecofeminism.
They shared how they stood with respect to their struggles, their territories and themselves. They searched for new words and meanings, exchanged practices and identified those in which they recognised themselves the most.
The workshop was an opportunity for all participants to gather, meet new people, find new energy and connections to act collectively for environmental and gender justice.
A preliminary look into the future
During the encounter, participants discussed the future of WEGO-ITN project and proposed a preliminary plan of action for the next two years. At the core, it was proposed that the network continued developing their FPE Dialogues, by expanding them to different spaces and undertaking activist research with people engaged in intersectional intergenerational environment justice in communities/ institutional arenas. The idea is to bring together their stories and strategies in a series of FPE Dialogues and to focus on local/global engagements expanding the spaces where WEGO-ITN engage, particularly in the global south..
List of participants
Ana Agostino Dr. Ana Agostino is the Ombudsperson for Montevideo, Uruguay and lecturer in Development and Culture at the University CLAEH. She graduated as a Social Worker from the University of the Republic, Uruguay, did postgraduate studies at the University of Bremen, Germany, and has a PhD in Development Studies from the University of South Africa (UNISA). She was a research fellow at UNISA at the departments of Latin American Studies (2000) and Development Studies (2005-2006) and Guest Researcher at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany (2013).
Gulay Çaglar, Freie Universität Berlin
Gülay Çaglar is Professor for Gender and Diversity at the Otto-Suhr-Institute of Political Science at Freie Universität Berlin. Caglar studied political science and economics and received her PhD in political science in 2007 from the University of Kassel, where she also worked as a research associate. Her research interests include Critical Food Studies, Feminist International Political Economy, Transnational Feminisms and International Governance. In her current research she investigates how shifts in gendered food practices (production, consumption, food preparation) and food activism affect policy priorities in international food governance.
Khayaat Fakier, Cattedra “Price Claus”, ISS
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’. 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. 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. 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. 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 work has featured in renowned international journals such as Antipode: Journal of Radical Geography, the International Journal of Feminist Politics, and Capitalism Nature Socialism.
Balia dal Collare is an activists’ group located in Rieti’s province. The group was founded in opposition to TSM2 (Terminillo Mountain Station). It is engaged in a dispute against the construction of new ski-lifts in the mountains of the municipalities of Leonessa Cantalice Micigliano e Vazia. The group has been working for years on the construction of new visions of mountain and rural areas through the valorisation of collective goods. Its activism and research practices concern the issues of mountains, water and energy autonomy, and environmental and local memories.
Giovanna Di Chiro, Swarthmore College (USA)
Giovanna Di Chiro is a Professor at Swarthmore College where she teaches courses on environmental justice theory, action research methods, and community sustainability. She is a faculty partner and policy advisor for Nuestras Raíces (our roots), a community organization that focuses on urban agriculture, food justice, and resiliency in the Puerto Rican/Latino community of Holyoke, Massachusetts. Di Chiro has published widely on the intersections of environmental science, policy, and activism addressing issues of human rights, food security, and environmental and climate justice.
Wendy Harcourt, Coordinator of the WEGO-ITN project
Wendy Harcourt is Professor of Gender, Diversity and Sustainable Development at ISS-EUR in The Hague. She is currently Chair of the Institute Council, member of the Research Committee, CIRI Research Group Coordinator and Coordinator of the Marie Curie ITN ‘WEGO’ project. Prof. dr. Wendy Harcourt joined the ISS in November 2011 after 23 years at the Society for International Development, Rome as Editor of the journal Development and Director of Programmes. She has edited 10 books and her monograph: ‘Body Politics in Development: Critical Debates in Gender and Development’ published by Zed Books in 2009, received the 2010 Feminist Women Studies Association Book Prize. She is series editor of both the Palgrave Gender, Development and Social Change and the ISS-Routledge Series on Gender, Development and Sexuality, a member of the International Governing Council of the Society for International Development as well as actively involved in gender and development journal boards and civil society networks.
Sharmini Bisessar-Selvarajah, ombudsperson WEGO
Sharmini Bisessar-Selvarajah joined the ISS in November 1998. From 2013 until 2017, she was the research programme manager for the Political Ecology research group. In January 2018 she became the project officer for WEGO. In her over 20-year career at the ISS, she has worked with academic staff, PhD researchers, MA students, management, support colleagues and external relations. She is currently a member of the Institute Council of the ISS. She holds a Master’s degree in Children and Youth Studies, Master’s degree in Management and a professional certificate in total quality management. Her interest in anthropological research lies in children and young people, women, political ecology and sustainable development.
Mother, Colombian anthropologist, master in Amazonian studies, doctor in anthropology. Collaborator of CEPAM – Centro de Estudios de Pensamiento Amazonico – of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. I have done research mainly in the Colombian Amazon, with indigenous peoples. I collaborated with the truth commission in Colombia to understand the dynamics of war in the Amazon, mainly on gender violence. I am interested in issues related to the plurality of the senses of peace and on community-based, black, ecological feminisms that place biocentric perspectives. With my family we lived in the Amazon, in the Brazilian northeast and currently in the Abruzzo’s mountains, where I’ve met the feminist collective “Fuori Genere” of which I am part.
Organized under the theme ‘Caring Communities for Radical Change’, the 8th International Degrowth Conference (August 24-28, The Hague), brought together nearly 900 activists, academics, and artists to discuss how to confront the contradictions between endless economic growth and the ecological boundaries of our planet.
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. 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 radical change.
‘… [understanding] care as central within degrowth and at the core of our economies and societies.’
These questions begun in Malmö were matured in The Hague discussions on Feminist Political Ecology (FPE) and Decoloniality throughout the sessions. FPE looked at feminisms, relations of care and wellbeing, with a focus on how we can understand care as central within degrowth and at the core of our economies and societies. In what way can economies be rearranged in terms of provisioning that care, taking into account health, aging and ability, whilst degrowing? And how do different strands of feminism such as feminist science and technology, decolonial and eco-feminism contribute to degrowth? Decoloniality discussions aimed to promote coalitions between degrowth movements and with individuals and collectives at the frontline of decolonization struggles in the Netherlands and Europe with workshops on the process of unlearning and relearning, looking at responsibility, debt and reparations as well as sessions to stimulate alternative imaginations and re-learning with others.
The FPE conversation argued how important it was to have a feminist perspective on degrowth. Because a movement for social and environmental needs must include diversities: diversities of gender, race, class, disability and sexual identities; and these diversities need to be analysed in meaningful ways. Because including these diversities is the only way to counteract and dismiss colonial, 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 conference) 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 simply for their own well-being and survival on earth.
¿Cómo podemos re-imaginar las “ciudades vivibles” desde una perspectiva feminista y a través de una mirada anclada en la justicia socio-ambiental?
En este evento en línea proponemos discutir críticamente el tema de las “ciudades vivibles” desde una perspectiva de la Ecología Política Feminista, poniendo énfasis en la justicia socio-ambiental.
Entre los/las invitados/as se encuentran activistas, académicos/as, actores/as gubernamentales y legisladores/as de Barcelona (España), Montevideo (Uruguay), México y Chile que compartirán sus perspectivas sobre este tema e intercambiarán ideas sobre desafíos comunes, visiones progresistas emergentes y estrategias para abordar las injusticias socio-ambientales en las ciudades.
Como investigadores/as jóvenes y senior de la red WEGO (Bienestar, Ecología, Género y Comunidad), enfocada en la Ecología Política Feminista, presentaremos y discutiremos a manera de introducción los hallazgos y experiencias de nuestras investigaciones relacionadas con la justicia social y ambiental desde una perspectiva crítica feminista.
Abordaremos temas como la política del agua y la gestión integrada, el enverdecimiento urbano, los bienes comunes, la salud urbana y planetaria en tiempos de pandemia y los enfoques del ‘derecho a la ciudad’. Temas que hemos estado investigando en Barcelona y en otras regiones de España y de Europa y también en otras regiones del mundo.
Nuestro objetivo es estimular un pensamiento crítico que cuestione y subvierta el imaginario omnicomprensivo de la “ciudad sostenible global neoliberal” impulsado por el desarrollo y el neodesarrollismo. Así, la discusión girará en torno a enfoques radicales, situados y justos del urbanismo sostenible.
How can we re-imagine ‘livable cities’ from a feminist perspective and through a social and environmental justice lens?
With this one-day online event we aim to bring together researchers, activists and local government actors, to discuss critically on the theme of “livable cities” from a feminist political ecology perspective and with a focus on socio-environmental justice. We invite activists, academics, government actors and policy makers from Barcelona (Spain), Montevideo (Uruguay) and beyond, to share their perspectives on these issues and exchange ideas on the common challenges, emerging progressive visions and strategies for addressing socioenvironmental injustices in cities.
We, research fellows from theWEGO_ITN network on FPE will also present and discuss our research findings and experiences relating to social and environmental justice from a feminist perspective. We will touch on topics such as water politics and integrated management, urban greening, food sharing and the commons, urban and planetary health in times of pandemic, and ‘right to the city’ approaches, as those were studied in Barcelona and other regions in Spain, Europe, and beyond.
Our aim is to ignite thinking that questions and breaks away from the all-encompassing imaginary of the neoliberal and growth-driven “global sustainable city”, to open the discussion on radical, situated and just approaches to sustainable urbanism. The discussions will be held in Spanish.
The 8th International Degrowth Conference that took place in The Hague between August 24th and 28th was an immersive and comprehensive event around the central theme of “Caring Communities for Radical Change”. During the five days of the conference, debates focused on care and justice as a way of thinking of degrowth as a collective project promoting sustainable, decolonial, feminist and post-capitalist modes of flourishing.
WEGO-ITN was one of the organizers and our PhD worked for months to guarantee that it would run smoothly – you can read Anna Katharina Voss’ insights here and here, for more details on the organizations.
Panels, plenaries, movie screenings and art installations helped deepen the discussions and broaden the ways that informations got spread. WEGO-ITN added another layer into this visual thinking by inviting artist Carlotta Cataldi to produce an artistic representation of three of the plenaries.
Feminist Political Ecology Perspectives on Degrowth:
Decoloniality and Degrowth Plenary: Resonating and Listening:
And the Closing Plenary:
You can take a look on how Carlotta creates her work on video as well.
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.
‘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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
The 8th International Degrowth Conference starts tomorrow!
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