The final training lab: a moment of reflection in an era of disruption

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.

WEGO-ITN training lab in the Attic at ISS

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.

Relaxing at Wendy’s house for an informal supper together

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?

WEGO training lab – also some creative engagements as people listen

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.

Map of where WEGO visited

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.

Mentors and PhDs working together


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.
  • join partners’ summer schools/ seminars/conferences/encounters/campaigns/
  • 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.
Time to say good-bye

Multiple ways of sharing (and interacting with) research findings: the “Troubling Waterscapes” project

It all started a few months before the biannual conference POLLEN2020: Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration, that was supposed to be held in Brighton, UK, in June 2020. Irene Leonardelli and Enid Still, two of WEGO-ITN Early Stage Researchers, together with their colleague and PhD candidate Arianna Tozzi, as well as artist Sneha Malani, were thinking of how to present their research findings in an interactive, less academic and more collective way. Soon the idea of an immersive art exhibition emerged, where it would be possible to engage in reflections with the participants, not necessarily by means of traditional panel discussions or roundtables.

Then COVID-19 hit.

After some consideration, they decided to move online. Instead of a traditional art installation, they developed an interactive online presentation, in which virtual visitors could move back and forth through the maps and stories of the fictional village of Pravah, in India, where Irene did her research on women who cultivate flowers with wastewater. Located in a notoriously drought-prone region, the village receives wastewater from Pune for irrigation purposes. As the wastewater reaches Pravah, however, it contaminates existing water resources. There is, of course, a symbolic, troubling, but also somewhat poetic contrast, between this polluted water and the flowers they grow.

The project came to life at the Pollen Conference, which ended up being held in September 2020. Now, their work – called Troubling Waterscapes, based on Donna Haraway’s “staying with the trouble” concept -, has become an permanent and immersive platform:

The researches, who work with water and agriculture, explained their website in a blog post for UPE collective:

“We started reflecting together on different ways of being with, understanding, knowing and feeling water. Speaking online from isolation across different parts of the world, we started adding layers to the map in the form of photos, poetry, satirical sketches, reflection and animations. These expressions were sparked by our collective conversations as we further troubled and questioned our engagement with waters and agriculture from multiple perspectives. Together, we reflected on what water infrastructures are (materially and symbolically) about their histories and meanings. We discussed how the people’s experiences and engagements with different waters (groundwater, wastewater, rain water) change throughout time and space, and how these differences are reflected across  multiple intersecting identities. We questioned how the very materiality of water, its fluidity, transparency, taste, affects everyday dealings and experiences with water across different waterscapes.”

For more information on the idea behind this WEGO-ITN project, check out the blog post.

And, of course, don’t miss the final results! Welcome to Troubling Waterscapes.

Caring in the time of Covid, in Indonesia

July 2021

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

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

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

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

My head is just full, no space left there.

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

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

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


24 Aug 2021

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


16 Sept 2021

Thinking and acting Care with FPE

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

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

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

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

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

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


Readings that helped me with this piece:

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

Gómez Becerra, M., & Muneri-Wangari, E. (2021). Practices of Care in Times of COVID-19. Frontiers in Human Dynamics, 3(June), 1–14.

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

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


Academia in the time of Covid-19

Members of the WEGO network actively supported the article ‘Academia in the time of COVID-19: Our chance to develop an ethics of care’. Based on the insights and comments received by the authors they extend their views in an Open Access article published in the journal Planning Theory and Practice.

Find the article here:

A pandemic of blindness: uneven experiences of rural communities under COVID-19 lockdown in India – Part II

In part II of our series on the uneven experiences and everyday challenges of lockdown conditions in India, activist-researchers Seema Kulkarni and Sneha Bhat are interviewed about their work on the frontlines of COVID-19 relief efforts for migrants and women farmers in Maharashtra

This blog piece is the product of a collaboration between four young researchers focusing on socio-ecological transformations in rural India from a critical feminist perspective. Witnessing the unfolding outcomes of COVID19 lockdown measures across India from places of relative safety, we have been reflecting, reading, and discussing together about the impacts of the lockdown in Maharashtra, where three of us have lived and worked in recent years.

Read the full article here

Irene Leonardelli and Enid Still are co-authors of this article on Undisciplined Environments.

A pandemic of blindness: uneven experiences of rural communities under COVID-19 lockdown in India – Part I

A two part series on the uneven experiences and everyday challenges of lockdown conditions in India. Reflections and insights from women and small-scale farmers, migrant workers and civil society activists in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra point to a systemic blindness of the state and economic system, which fail to see, understand or respond to the struggles of the most marginalised people in the country.

Read the full article here

Enid Still and Irene Leonardelli are co-authors of this blog on Undisciplined Environments