Video series: Second Training Lab

Originally planned to take place in Bolsena, Italy, at WEGO-ITN’s partner Punti di Vista, last year’s Second Training Lab was adapted into an on-line event, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. All meetings, lectures, workshops and plenaries happened between June 10th-18th 2020.

All encounters and discussions were recorded and are now also available in videos produced by the group. The editing was a collaborative project by WEGO PhD’s Marlene Gómez, Dian Ekowati, Enid Still and Anna Katharina Voss, together with film maker John Akerman.

Videos include a keynote lecture by Prof. Dr. Katherine Gibson, from the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University, and the Community Economies Research Network (CERN) – plus discussions between WEGO members about the meanings of Feminist Political Ecology and care. Finally, 3 videos depict mini lectures on PhD’s research projects.

They are also available at our Youtube and Vimeo channels.

“Women who inspire us”: a March 8th campaign

WEGO-ITN promoted a special Twitter campaign on International Women’s Day. Partners, researchers and activists were invited to share with us their list of inspiring women for March 8th 2021. The list included artists, professors, academics and local activists. Take a look:

 

 

 

 

 

“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 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 

WEGO and Feminist Political Ecology

The Innovative Training Network WEGO (“Well-being, Economy, 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.

Thinking through the relations between feminist political ecology, degrowth, commoning and post-development

The Lalang river, in Indonesia, is a common property for the Murung people – almost all Murung activities happens on or around the river. However, catching fish has become more difficult for the Murung women when extractive projects such as coal mines operate in the region. Photo credit: Siti Maimunah.

 

In July this year, four of us (Nanako, Mai, Martina and Enid)  came together online to present our work and bring a feminist political ecology perspective to debates and discussions happening at the IASC-RIHN Online Workshop On Commons, Post-Development and Degrowth in Asia.  This is what we presented – and learned.

With issues of commons and commoning, the more-than-human and care, all featuring in our PhD work, we were keen to learn about the diverse meanings of the commons, their intersecting power dynamics and transformative potential in the context of Asia. For instance, what similarities and differences are shared among commons studies in Asia? Do they go beyond hegemonic formulations introduced by Western concepts, which are often carefully attended to by Asian scholars and in Asian studies? Indeed, using exogenous terms and concepts entails challenges in terms of linguistic and epistemological incompatibility. So why is it necessary to translate locally embedded terms? Nanako touched upon this challenge through questioning the necessity of linguistic and semantic translations in relation to aging, a universal concern, and the specificity of Japanese rural communities and the associated traditional landscape or Satoyama. 

Mai brought the topic of extractivism to the workshop, through the example from her fieldwork where indigenous communities who depend on rivers in Central Kalimantan to sustain their livelihood have experienced the spatial reorganisation of communal forests and agricultural lands, which are being converted into coal mining areas to pursue economic growth. She was interested in questions such as, how do experiences of extractivism relate to commoning practices? Do principles of degrowth support the struggles of people affected by extractivist projects?

This workshop therefore offered us an opportunity to learn and think with others about different commoning practices happening in Asia, and also tackle difficult, often uncomfortable questions about how they are being represented and narrated in degrowth and post-development scholarship. These tensions and our interest in confronting them were further articulated through Enid’s presentation of the idea that a just Degrowth is a Decolonial Feminist Degrowth. The plurality of thinking and praxis around Degrowth, the commons and post development, we found, like feminisms, are infused with constructive tensions and contestation.

We were particularly inspired by the way that the studies presented at the workshop embraced and enriched the practice of working, thinking and researching with situated knowledges. Among the many inspiring presentations, discussions and debates happening both on zoom and the online conference platform, Slack, there were, two presentations that resonated with us: “Gradual Stiffening through Making-Do: A Method of Hope for Degrowthing Shared Public Spaces” by Chris Berthelsen, Xin Cheng, Rumen Rachev and “Covid-19, Common, and Life within Society: Indonesian Case” by Nur Dhani Hendranastiti. 

The former presentation was on the possibilities of collective hope in urban commons and commoning practices. Beyond visions of urban commons as fixed urban spaces, they suggest a re-orientation of notions of property and shared urban spaces and places, that are lived through a method of collective hope, thinking and operating beyond the human, and which is made and remade through the opening up of possibilities which can only exist in ambiguity and uncertainty. Related to this, earlier work by Xin Cheng and Chris Berthelsen explored how small co-habitations might work on a larger community scale through the below ‘hallucination.’ Their collaborations in themselves are inspiring to think through the multiple practices of knowledge co-production in relation to shared spaces and commoning practices – especially in their attentiveness to their more-than-human fellows! You can see more work by Xin Cheng on reframing urban socialities in Hamburg here and read her book on co-producing ‘human(e) shared spaces’ here.

The second presentation by Nur Dhani Hendranastiti, explored the correlations between Islamic ethical principles and degrowth principles. Ethical principles such as Amanah (trust), Adalah (social justice) and Ihsan (equilibrium through distribution) were at the core of the agricultural-financial system that supported farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia. Decentering capital, the system privileges multiple stakeholder equality, including non-humans. Ecological economics and degrowth thinking often refers to ethical principles from Buddhism, (often drawing on the work of Schumacher) but rarely other religions. Whilst the financial system described still worked within the confines of a capitalist system and norms of individual property ownership, Nur Dhani Hendranastiti challenged us to think beyond what may have become dominant narratives about the ethical principles that guide degrowth.

Through the full but enjoyable three days of presentations, discussions and online chats, we were able to connect to a variety of different scholars and artists who helped us to develop a deeper understanding of the debates and practices on commoning, degrowth and post-development in Asia. In that learning and interacting process, we were commoning our knowledge, re-imagining a world full of plurality. Through our own collaborative presentation, we introduced the different issues, concerns, activisms, communities and theoretical frames we are working with and offered a brief intervention from a feminist political ecology perspective on some of the key theory and ideas coming from degrowth, post-development and commons scholarship. The diversity of perspectives made visible at this workshop demonstrated the dynamism of these intersecting disciplines and practices, and created a hopeful and careful space to remain curious in these challenging times.

Feminist political ecologies: situated perspectives and emerging approaches

An article entitled Ecologías políticas feministas: perspectivas situadas y abordajes emergentes by Rebecca Elmhirst has been published in Ecología Política.  

Extract in English

This article reflects on the development of feminist political ecology, a field of research and praxis that offers different theoretical approaches to the social power relations associated with nature, culture and the economy, with a commitment to epistemologies, methods and values. feminists. From a small illustrative selection of research articles, I present a consciously biased and situated commentary on the Anglophone contributions that have resonated in my own research practice, teaching, and everyday life. I consider four related areas of development of feminist political ecology: first, gender dynamics in access and dispossession of resources; second, the debates around post-humanism, bodies and matter; third, academic and activist considerations about sufficiency, commons, and a feminist ethic of care; and finally, recent efforts to develop a decolonial feminist political ecology. My objective is to show the types of questions and concerns that each of these threads raises, considered as platforms to continue the critical debate.

Read the full article here

10th Dimensions of Political Ecology (DOPE) conference at University of Kentucky

Rebecca Elmhirst opened the 10th Dimensions of Political Ecology (DOPE) conference at University of Kentucky with a presentation entitled Beyond handbook tyrannies: Pluralising the practice of feminist political ecology

Her talk introduced the work WEGO is doing to consolidate Feminist Political Ecology as a body of work and ethical approach to research and practice to an audience of largely North and Latin American-based political ecologists, many of whom are early career scholar-activists.

DOPE was started by and continues to be run by the Political Ecology Working Group, an interdisciplinary collective of University of Kentucky graduate students. The conference in February 2020 included a superb range of panels and papers from across a range of political ecology areas, but with a strong emphasis on intersectional scholar activism, including close engagement with environmental activisms in Kentucky and Appalachia. Insights were shared through a plenary panel where Justin Dunnavant presented his action research with young people recovering histories of enslavement in the land and seascapes of the former Danish West Indies, Macarena Gómez-Barris presented on extractivism in Chile and Diana Ojeda described her recent projects bridging political ecology and feminist geopolitics with research focused on the Colombian Caribbean. Dr Alaka Wali, Curator of North American Anthropology in the Science and Education Division of The Field Museum gave a keynote addressdescribing her pioneering work developing of participatory social science action research and community engagement processes based in museum science to further access of museum resources for excluded communities. Her talk was part of the University of Kentucky’s year of equity programme to mark the 70th Anniversary of the successful lawsuit to desegregate the University of Kentucky. 

Practising feminist political ecology: building knowledge communities

The WEGO proposal for a roundtable on ‘Practising feminist political ecology: building knowledge communities’ has been accepted for the 16th The European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) General Conference: Solidarity, Peace and Social Justice taking place from 29 June to 2 July 2020 at the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam.

 Convenors: Wendy Harcourt, Lyla Mehta, Margreet Zwarteveen and Ana Agostino

Feminist Political Ecology (FPE) is an approach that looks at how to promote community well-being, peace and social justice. It analyses power relations within different systems of oppression and at different scales in communities, building solidarity in the global North and South. FPE examines the processes, strategies and political mechanisms that community initiatives use to challenge the existing power relations based on exploitation, domination, and conflict. With audience participation from both the Global North and South, the workshop will share the innovative insights of the Wellbeing Ecology Gender Communities (WEGO) ITN network on how to do grounded research in solidarity with social movements and community initiatives around issues of social and environmental justice, natural resource management and care.

Summer school Bolsena: notes from a feminist writing retreat

For a week in August part of the WEGO team gathered with other academics and activists of diverse places, ages and experiences in the beautiful convent of Bolsena in Italy for a feminist methodologies writing retreat.

Read the full blog on Undisciplined Environments