EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

Gender and environmental change. Taking stock and looking into the future
Location U6-12
Date and Start Time 22 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2


  • Kristina Großmann (University Passau) email
  • Michaela Haug (University of Cologne) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

Environmental change can have huge impacts on gender relations, which are framed by diverse concepts and theories. We invite contributions that include analysis of recent empirical work and/or focus more generally on theoretical considerations on the nexus of gender and nature.

Long Abstract

Environmental change as the increasing exploitation of natural resources leads to far reaching transformations of the environment and local livelihoods. All these transformations (re)produce in manifold ways economic, political and social inequalities. Men and women sometimes possess different environmental knowledge, gender plays a crucial role for determining access to and control over natural resources in some societies and it often influences how men and women get incorporated into new labor systems. Environmental change and related changes of traditional economic systems and social structures can thus lead to new (self)concepts of gender identities, gender roles, work activities, control, responsibilities, inclusions and exclusions of men and women.

The gender-nature-culture nexus has long been a major concern in Anthropology. Ecofeminist approaches, meanwhile heavily criticized in academia but still prevalent in the field of practice, related the oppression of women and the exploitation of nature to patriarchal-capitalistic domination. Researches focusing on female power centers and masculinities contrast this perception of the universal and essential oppression of women. Feminist Political Ecology broadens the scope of analyses on global and local power relations, the increasing commodification of natural resources and seeks to elaborate the role and agency of women. In the wake of the constructivist turn, nature and bodies are seen as products of discourses and materiality has become extremely volatile. Inspired by an increasing academic interest in materiality in recent years, the materiality of natural products and male/female bodies are more and more included in current research on environmental change.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Gender issues in human, animal and plant health using an ecohealth perspective

Authors: Brigitte Bagnol (Faculty of Veterinary Science and Charles Perkins Centre, The University of Sydney, Australia. The University of the Wtwatersrand, SA. )  email
Robyn Alders (University of Sydney)  email
Robyn McConchie (University of Sydney )  email

Short Abstract

This paper is based on a conceptual framework identifying the relationship between gender inequalities and the risk of contracting a disease through an ecohealth perspective. It looks at the varying impacts of plant, animal and human diseases and identifies four contributing factors.

Long Abstract

The ecohealth approach is a core concept integrating environmental aspects with human and animal health (domestic and wild animals). Zoonotic and emerging diseases affect human health and impact negatively on food security. Although both the risk of contracting a disease and the subsequent impacts vary between different genders, age groups, cultures and social conditions, very little research has been done on this and few guidelines or interventions focus adequately on these aspects.

This paper first discusses the socially defined roles including social, economic, cultural, legal and political factors that often determine which place men and women occupy in society, which animals and plants men or women have accumulated knowledge of, which they have control of and which they benefit from and consequently the impact men and women have on the environment due to these specific roles. Secondly, it analyses the gender differences in risk of infection. It also analyses cultural differences that influence practices connected to animal, plant and human diseases and discusses respective preventions and treatments. Thirdly, it also identifies the ways men and women are impacted by the diseases of humans, plants and animals in different ways. Lastly, this paper assesses the biological factors that influence the differences in exposure, infection rates and mortality rates between men and women during their life cycle. These four factors contribute to gender variations in relation to animal, human, plant and ecological health.

The making of radical change: locating ecofeminism among Swiss activists for energy transtion

Authors: Irene Becci (University of Lausanne - ISSRC)  email
Alexandre Grandjean (University of Lausanne)  email

Short Abstract

Starting from empirical explorations made among Swiss activists concerned with ecological issues before and after the COP21 meeting, we shall concentrate on discourses and practices referring to spiritual change, including ecofeminism, and offer a frame of interpretation in terms of queer ecology.

Long Abstract

Discourses and practices mobilized around the globe by activists for ecological concerns, currently put a strong emphasis on the neccessity of a radical change of humanity. The radical change that is ambitioned is supposed to come along with fundamental transformations at both a collective and structural and at a personal level. Interestingly, in this view about change spirituality seems to emerge as a mediating factor. In this panel we wish to present some empirical explorations that we have made in Switzerland in the months preceding and following the COP21 meeting in Paris. We shall problematize aspects of an ongoing research on the role of spiritual activists in current mobilisations in favor of energy transition in Switzerland. Some of them having an ecofeminist imprint, we shall offer a reflection on the way to understand them with regard to the queer ecology approach. We shall first describe the main dimensions, questions, problematiques and fields of the ongoing research. Secondly we develop the key aspects of ecofeminism and the queer ecology approach and in the conclusion, we question the pertinence of this concept and its impact on the actual transition process to a more ecological way of life.

Energizing gender: how does introduction of new energy sources influence practices, relationships and ideologies related to gender-roles

Author: Alesya Krit (International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture, Giessen)  email

Short Abstract

The impact of environmental change on the gender relations is examined through the prism of the introduction of ‘new energies’. While presuming a general positive change of empowerment of women, the actual ethnographic case studies suggest rather a complex array of appropriation strategies.

Long Abstract

This proposed paper will bring a theoretical input while comparing transformation of local livelihoods in relation to new energy-related practices.

An attempt to bridge the gap between the 'very poor' and 'rich' countries together with the current environmental change call for newer (sustainable) energy sources to be introduced in different parts of the world. Findings on this topic, however, are full of contradictions: developmental agencies report 'empowering' of women, where as some ethnographic portraits report deeper loss of power in the relationships. Others illustrate different examples where women willingly reject new energy sources altogether. So where does 'the truth' lie?

While employing the method of ethnographic comparison, I will be investigating such introduction of 'new' energy into societies, and connected with that people's need to reflect and incorporate the changing technology and availability of energy into everyday practices, hierarchies, and power struggles. This research is not looking at energy from the global, geopolitical, climate-changing agenda. Rather, an anthropological prism allows for micro-view of local people's perceptions, or what I call 'cultural translation' of energy. My paper will offer a framework for looking at energy as a perspective of accessing changing cultural meanings of social practices (and with that relationships and ideologies) related to gender.

"Men are interested only in root crops": climate-change gendered policies in the Kingdom of Tonga

Author: Gaia Cottino (Università La Sapienza di Roma)  email

Short Abstract

In the Kingdom of Tonga, rather than climate change itself, the climate-change-related policies seem to have a strong impact on the nexus of gender and nature.

Long Abstract

Recently the lands of Oceania have entered within a global discourse of climate change. While local populations have always faced ecological vulnerability elaborating resilience techniques over the millennia, setting roles and defining work activities, the current political discourse on climate change -conveniently global- seems to offer universal solutions, altering such gender equilibrium.

In the Kingdom of Tonga, while the first Constitution eliminated the official land keepers and care givers (tahui fonua) who guarded the land's diversity and productivity, the Green revolution has uniformed the environment removing the previous agro-forestry system and replacing it with extensive monocultures for commercial purposes, leaving the land poor and dry. In recent years, the climate change alarm has promoted a large number of projects aimed at restoring the land and addressing food security, often through female participation, despite the gender roles and labor division within the local community. Rather than climate change itself, the climate-change-related policies seem to have a strong impact on the nexus of gender and nature.

After a brief historical overview, I will discuss ethnographic data regarding a recent "urban horticulture" project aimed at both guaranteeing local food security and empowering women. By illustrating the roles played by Tongan men and women in practicing agriculture and gardening, and by describing the land distribution, I will question the global and local engendered agenda, which takes for granted a nexus between the female and the natural world.

A silent sound: deep listening and connections with non-human beings "through the looking-glass" of a female farmer

Author: Diana De Luca (University of Perugia)  email

Short Abstract

Based on ethnographic observation in a community focused on ecological lifestyle created by an ecologist female farmer, my paper aims to untie the nexus of female oppression and control of nature, focusing on shared domestic organization and its material practices.

Long Abstract

My research focuses on the experience of a female farmer and her material practices to arrange her domestic life and project it to a broader ecological community. Considering that the link between nature and gender is connected with the lifecycle of discrimination, in the field of practice, I describe how she develops a good form of communication with the natural world, such as donkeys, sheep, horses, chickens, flowers, vegetables and how she is carrying out an experiment of a different kind of "society" in everyday life. Therefore - through the practice of organic farming as a self-sufficiency activity and also as a form of resistance - the purpose of this specific project goes beyond the constructivist idea of male/female bodies seen as a product of discourses, instead materiality. My fieldwork has been carried out in the countryside of Umbria (Italy) in a community of volunteer workers which was created by an English woman in 1980. Currently, she is working hard on her project to share an ecological lifestyle and to raise awareness about the attempt of overturning the gender roles as well as the human control on non-human beings, inspired by the philosophy of deep ecology. According to some ecologist thinkers such as Arne Naess and Freya Mathews my position within the anthropological argumentation is to ask where we will find the theoretical point of intersection between environmental change and the perception of gender inequalities, through the case study of organic farming interpreted as the looking-glass of a female body.

Gaharu King - Family Queen? The eaglewood boom: material gendered political ecology in Kalimantan, Indonesia

Author: Kristina Großmann (University Passau)  email

Short Abstract

Framed in the concept of material gendered political ecology I give empirical insights in maintained gender symmetries, new evolving indigenous masculinities and the material agency of eaglewood.

Long Abstract

In the last years, eaglewood (gaharu) - the resinous, fragrant heartwood produced by the tree Aquilaria malaccensis when its wood becomes infected with a type of mould - has become, caused by the rise of its value on the world market higher than gold, an important source of income and status for members of marginalized Dayak communities in forested regions of central Kalimantan. Regarding gaharu, gender relations are strictly separated and although maintained symmetrical they evolve to be less flexible. I point out in the framework of material gendered political ecology that gaharu is not only a blank silent natural resource but its material agency has social and economic impacts and serves as a marker for self-conception and identity. Whereas environmental transformations in the form of the exploitation of the natural resource gaharu entail not obligatorily a change in power relations within symmetric gender relations, eaglewood serves as a marker for young man deploying a masculine indigenous identity materialized in a specific body style and shape as a form of protest against exclusion.

The role of kinship and gender in past and future land use in Jambi, Indonesia

Author: Stefanie Steinebach (University of Goettingen)  email

Short Abstract

Kinship based access to land and political power in Sumatra is contested by market based mechanisms of access to land as a commodity. I highlight the role of gender and kinship for land use transformation and the impact of land commodification on gender and political power structures.

Long Abstract

Jambi province, Sumatra, Indonesia, is a multiethnic society where local concepts of kinship and gender are essential in the making of communities and the organization of rights over land and resources. kinship always entails categories of gender; and rules of descendent, marriage and residence patterns are organized around local notions of gender. Thus individual gendered identities are linked to access to land and relate to economic and political power.

The boom crop economy transformed the countryside from remote hinterlands into bustling agro-industrial centers and local livelihoods shifted from extracting and extensive agricultural subsistence economies to intensive cash crop production. Agro-industrial business stimulate migration into rural areas by settlers who seek to become part of the boom crop economy and land has turned from an abundant living environment into a sought after factor of production.

The interplay between migration flows, dynamics of smallholder plantation economy and increasing cash crop dependency heavily impacts local communities' socio-political organization and local structures of political authority. Kinship based access to land and political power is contested by market based mechanisms of access to land as a commodity.

Along two case studies from Jambi I highlight the role of gender and kinship for land use transformation and vice versa the impact of land commodification on gender and political power structures. These examples show that local environmental processes are clearly connected to the political practices of kinship and gender as key to the (future) use of land and resources.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.