Thursday, June 16, 2022

Session reports

Gender in/and Extractivist Landscapes

by Yolanda Weima

 

The paper session “Extractivism and Dispossession: Gender, Violence, and the Extractive Landscape” largely centered on how gendered experiences of violence, exclusion, and dispossession are shaped by/in landscapes of extractivism. Four of the five papers were empirical case studies (Lesley Johnston, University of Waterloo; Janet Adomako, Rutgers University; Adrienne Johnson (& Mary Case), University of San Francisco; and Specioza Twinamasiko, Mbarara University of Science and Technology). They highlighted diverse extractivist landscapes of industrial and artisanal mining, as well as state and corporate oil and gas exploitation, from West, East, and Southern Africa, and the United States. 

 

While the authors engaged different theoretical frameworks (including necropolitics, indigenous feminist theories, the spirituality of landscape, and policy oriented evaluation), the session chair Nadia Der-Ohannesian (Universidad Nacional de Córdoba) reflected on their commonalities. All four described and reflected on the extension of women’s bodies onto the (extractivist) territory. The exploitative treatment of land to render it productive to capital is extended to women in ways which are more than metaphor. Across these contexts, the papers highlighted how formal mechanisms to provide compensation for dispossession, provide justice in cases of gendered violence, or promote livelihoods within neoliberal corporate social responsibility (CSR) frameworks, all failed women who were the most marginalized and vulnerable. 

 

In her own paper, bringing two works of speculative fiction into conversation, Nadia shared how women's engagement with landscapes in fiction creates possibilities for imagining ways of being in the world, and in landscapes, which differ from colonialist, masculinist, and extractivist. In this literature relationships with landscape reflect ethics of care, and the agency not only of women, but also the landscape, in ways which are not oriented to capitalist production and reproduction.

Urban/Infrastructure: Feminist and Queer Urban Geographies I

- Aila Bandagi

 

The first of two sessions on feminist and queer urban geographies started on an optimistic note, with everyone introducing themselves and showing how diverse a group of people were attending the session. 

The first presentation was from Eda Acara, and Hilal Kara on their research project titled “Cities of Global Uneven Care and the Feminist voices in the Global Middle East.” The authors are theorizing the urban problem of care work and highlight the need to expand the definition of what care work is. They are responding to the cruising of care amongst women and moving beyond binaries to better understand and describe this concept. The second presentation was by Eugénie Le Bigot who presented their work on “Comfort and discomfort of women in public spaces: the examples of Caen, Rouen (FR) and Portsmouth (UK).” Through online surveys and participatory mapping, the author finds and demonstrates interesting patterns of what women consider as safe and unsafe spaces in cities, and at what times these spaces are defined as such.

Dominica Whitesell presented their work on “Designing a “vibrant, attractive and sustainable city”: A feminist eye towards beautification and development in Kampala, Uganda.” The author identified the moral and civic virtues of projects of beautification and highlights the stress, trauma and health impacts of these beautification projects, in the context of women and the body. Claire Davis presented their work on “Queerness, policing morality and urban parks as sites of in/exclusion.” Discussing that parks are open, inclusive spaces only for some people, the author highlights the violence faced by the LGBTQ community in parks. The author uses Key Informant interviews, secondary data and ground truthing to identify patterns of violence against queer people. 

The discussion was very interesting with the panelists asking each other questions about methods, embodied experiences and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on their research.

Pushing Boundaries Keynote: “A repertoire of guiding lights”*

-Yolanda Weima

“How do you see feminism as woven–or not–with processes of decolonization, abolition, and climate justice?” This “really big,” “enormous” question kindled the Pushing Boundaries keynote,** a conversation between scholars AM Kanngieser (Royal Holloway University of London), Ashanté Reese (University of Texas at Austin), Magie Ramirez (Simon Fraser University), and Michelle Daigle (University of Toronto). 

 

Addressing the question, Ashanté clarified that in thinking about these big concepts, we cannot assume that there are (or need to be) “shared goals.” Rather, “we can acknowledge and work across difference with these goals” (Ashanté). This was an apt opening to the conversation, as each speaker had different “entry points” in responding the question, “rooted in [their] own genologies” (Michelle), and stories that may not have always been labelled “feminism” (Magie). Indeed, feminism itself may have different meanings, some of which serve hegemony, or the extractivist academy (Ashanté). Yet, the speakers' embodied experience and research all highlighted in varied ways the importance of good relation and interdependence within their feminist praxis. Interdependence does not try to assimilate difference, but works “across difference to inform what feminism means” (AM). 

 

Across the research and experience of the speakers, the idea of interdependence included not only radical changes in relating to other humans, but also to institutions, and to the earth. For example, AM highlighted how ideas of interdependence have been pushed to the fore in when thinking about climate justice with Pacific women, transgender and queer people. There has been “a complete reevaluation of understandings of care with respect to environments and ecosystems” (AM). In a similar vein, thinking about abolition also means “re-imagining everything we know to be true” about our relationship to care and safety, to other humans, and the earth (Ashanté). Likewise, the decolonizing work of returning land “will necessitate a dramatic revision by all people [of their] relations to the land” (Magie). Feminisms may be part of this reevaluation/rei-magining/re-visionning. Michele noted that “Indigenous, black and women of colour feminism ground the land-body relationship” and thus offer important tools for redressing extraction and dispossession that is enacted on the bodies of women and queer people. 

 

Yet, while the academy can facilitate such work, the structures and demands of institutions and disciplines can also work against feminist praxis in seeking/enacting decolonization, abolition and climate justice. These concepts have become buzzwords, and even academic currency (Michelle), which many are eager to consume (Magie). Yet currency does not mean respect (Magie), and engagement by the academy is often superficial and fleeting (AM). Ideas come up, without support for the relationships, trust, and multi-generational work which is truly needed (AM). 

 

For scholars, good relations and accountability means “to know when to be unruly, when to refuse, and what is worth defending” (Magie). It means “not allowing the research or other demands of the profession to consume [our relations] with communities,” and knowing when “to lean into opacity” and when not to share our stories (Magie). These observations resonated with Michelle’s attention to the challenge of teaching and writing about the realities of indigenous peoples in ways that are not extractive and which do not re-objectify them. Her experience in using fictional and creative representations in teaching came through thinking deeply about these issues, as well as pushing against demands for “novel” data in research. Similarly Ashanté noted that “there are everyday things we learn and that would be cool to write about that we absolutely shouldn’t” due to ethical relationships and accountability through connections beyond formal work. 

 

Where, then, do the keynote speakers find spaces of hope? (An audience question.) In opening the conversation Ashanté called attention to the ways “feminism teaches us to always question scale.” She noted that “the everyday is a suitable enough scale” and that in abolition and Black feminist praxis, “transforming the big World” can come through the smaller world (Ashanté). And it is in the everyday, and the “smaller world” that the keynote speakers found hope. “Radical friendship is profoundly important in the university,” and it is “hopeful when people show up and offer care to each other”--even when they don’t know each other well. Each of the panelists re-iterated the importance of friendship and relationships, which are the “spaces of hope.” Beyond only thinking about careers, we need to prioritize collaboration and care (AM). It is possible to work to build the spaces you want to be in (Magie); “it’s a lot of work and it is enough” (Michelle).

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*Ashanté Reese, citing Hortense Spillers on what she meant by black feminism

**The keynote was introduced and moderated by Tianna Bruno (University of Texas at Austin) and Hanieh Molana (California State University, Sacramento). The session was co-chaired with Brenda Boonabaana (Makerere), and Victoria Ogoegbunam Okoye (SOAS).