Race/Gender/Environment Are Mutually Constituted S. Paulson, Lund University <ul><li>This class will challenge assumption common in popular discourse and in much scholarship </li></ul><ul><li>1. race is determined by geneology and morphology </li></ul><ul><li>2. gender is determined by sexual dimorphism </li></ul><ul><li>3. environment is the natural stage on which human actions and interactions play out </li></ul>
Environmental Justice Environmental Racism <ul><li>Environmental racism refers to the enactment or enforcement of any policy, practice, or regulation that negatively affects the environment of low-income or racially homogeneous communities at a disparate rate than affluent communities. </li></ul><ul><li>United States of America Environmental Justice Group. National Conference of State Legislatures. Environmental Justice: A Matter of Perspective. 1995 </li></ul>
Racialized environmental conflict and emerging political subjectivities in Latin America
1. Latin America: 1500- 1900 struggles over access and control of environment inform and are justified by emerging racial ideologies. 2. 20 th century modern development and the “disappearance” of Indians 3. Starting in 1990s, surge of interrelated environmental conflicts and racialized identities 4. Dawn of 21 st century, new subjectivities with environmental justice and indigenous / afro identities 5. How does this push and motivate us to rethink conventional notions of environment and of race?
(1) For several centuries people of European heritage have striven for privileged access to use and shape environments across the Americas. People labeled as indian and negro have resisted in many ways, and generally lost access and control, been displaced from their environments, and lived in environments that have been penetrated and polluted by mining, drilling, logging, plantations, urbanization.
AAA statement on race “In the United States both scholars and the general public have been conditioned to viewing human races as natural and separate divisions within the human species based on visible physical differences”
Different statements about race: Race is NOT a biological reality. Race is a worldview featuring a myth about biology. Race is a historically specific sociocultural system manifest in legislation, economy, education, residence patterns, kinship, bodies, and of course, environments.
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(2) In the context of 20 th century modern development: many observers---from scholars to political leaders to National Geographic magazine—declared that “Indians were disappearing.”
“ Given their advantage in force, it is not surprising that aspects of the colonizers’ value systems have become hegemonic, so that the stigma attached long ago by Europeans to ‘Indianness’ has worked its way into ‘Indian’ self-consciousness as well. Consequently, self-proclaimed Indians are exceedingly scarce” (Thomas Abercrombie 1992:96).
“ The body, in Andean thinking, is an object built up over time. As it ingests, digests, and expels substances from the world around it, it provides its owner an identity drawn from worldly substances. Body and identity thus originate in the intimate physical relationship between persons and their social milieu.” Cholas and Pishtacos: Stories of Race and Sex in the Andes , Mary Weistmantel, 2001:91.
(3) Starting in 1990s, Latin America has been shaken by an explosion of environmental conflicts in which people engaged in struggles over natural resource use and environmental governance often explicitly identify themselves as indigenous and/or afro.
(4) At the dawn of 21 st century, a new type of political action and subjectivity is emerging in which environmental justice is mutually constituted with indigenous and afro identities.
“ I explore issues of authenticity, legal discourse, and local requirements of belonging by considering the recent surge of indigenous recognitions in northeastern Brazil.” “I investigate how race and ethnicity are implicated in the recognition process in Brazil on the basis of an analysis of a successful struggle for indigenous identity and access to land by a group of mixed-race, visibly African-descended rural workers.” Jan Hoffman French 2004: 663
“ Motivated by new legal rights, access to land, and the possibility of improvements in their standard of living, residents of Mocambo embarked on a campaign to gain quilombo recognition, even though it would mean identification with a -derided category associated with oppression and slavery—“negro.” Jan Hoffman French 2006: 341.
“ the upsurge of indigenous self-identification, illustrated by the people who would become the Xocó, is not just about (or not necessarily at all about) Indianness but is more fundamentally about political subjectivities forged in the struggle for land that, when tied to claims of indigenous identity, result in communities of likeness.” Jan Hoffman French 2004: 664
Making race through human-environment relations <ul><li>Groups of people in Brazil that share many physical and cultural characteristics are engaged in struggles for control of natural resources that variously make them act, feel and self-identify as: </li></ul><ul><li>More indigenous </li></ul><ul><li>More linked to African slaves </li></ul><ul><li>Less linked to African slaves </li></ul>
"When a woman is hoeing potatoes in her field she is a campesina, but when she goes to the city to sell her potatoes she is a chola" [ campesina and chola are racial/ethnic identity labels]
“ The transportista is due at six to load the potatoes. If he thinks I am some dirty Indian he'll cheat me in the portion of potatoes he takes in exchange for transporting my cargo."
Dominant discourses <ul><li>Global discourses on women´s rights and indigenous rights make women and indian universal categories, decontextualized from any environmental practice or meaning. </li></ul><ul><li>Academic structures and disciplines divorce the study of racial/ethnic/gender identities from the study of environment. </li></ul>
Fetishism: Value inheres in the individual commodity, rather than coming from the socio-economic system, Race inheres in the individual human body, rather than coming from the socio-economic system.
Corresponds with fetishism discussed by Estebe in the conference <ul><li>1. encapsulates natural/social input into a commodity, making invisible the ecostystems and socio-cultures that produce and shape it. </li></ul><ul><li>2. imposes a single language of valuation. </li></ul><ul><li>3. mystifies (justifies) unequal relations of exchange and access to natural resources. </li></ul>
GENDER A cultural system that organizes and gives meaning to our bodies, our actions and interactions, and the world around us with symbolic reference to sex and sexuality. RACE A specific type of ideology and social system that developed in 18 th , 19 th centuries in conjunction with “scientific” ideas about biological determinism, and that coexists with diverse forms and dynamics of ethnicity.
Global Discourse about Rights and Identity International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, United Nations 1969 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women , United Nations 1979 ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, 1989
*Raises visibility for certain individuals and groups * Facilitates politics of rights and recognition * Divides local experience into western categories *Promotes identity essentialism *Contributes to divisions amongst potentially solidary individuals and groups
"We have walked for a month, under the rain, snow, and hail, along with pregnant compañeras , with hardly any food, and sleeping outdoors. We did all of this to make the government respect our women's rights and our coca growers' rights.”
dominant conceptualizations allow for contradictory political processes and impacts: identity politics designed to recognize and respect subaltern socio-cultural groups neoliberal economic politics prioritize financial efficiency and economic growth at the cost of environmental sovereignty and resource access for same groups
academia <ul><li>How to connect study of identity and of environment? (gender and women`s studies, critical ethnic and race studies, environmental studies, ecology, agronomy, forestry). </li></ul><ul><li>Method, theory, topics of study vary across disciplines </li></ul><ul><li>Epistemologies clash </li></ul><ul><li>Embodied scholarly pursuit </li></ul>
(5) How can we rethink conventional notions of environment and of race in ways that grasp relationships between them?
The emergence of collective ethnic identities in Latin America reflects the irruption of the biological as a global concern and the intensification of the cultural or ethnic as a political issue. Consciously constructivist and strategically essentialist? Racial identity about Nature, but Not about genetic determination? Identity constructed through environmental practices and struggles, which are biological processes?
In a study of racial inequalities in health published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Clarence Gravlee urges us to move beyond ‘race-as-bad-biology’ to explain how race becomes biology . Arguing that race exists as a sociocultural phenomenon that has biological consequences, Gravlee presents a model for explaining how racial inequality becomes embodied—literally—in the biological well-being of racialized groups and individuals: “It is a vicious cycle: Social inequalities shape the biology of racialized groups, and embodied inequalities perpetuate a racialized view of human biology” (Gravlee 2009:48).
In a discussion of movements of black communities in the Pacific rainforest, Escobar and Paulson (2005) explore an alternative conceptualization of biodiversity as “territory plus culture” that is emerging as Afro-Colombians define environment as a cultural/natural space of ethnic groups and life corridors associated with the riverine production systems.