Workshop on gender and climate change – 29th May

Gender and Climate Change workshop

Friday May 29th from 2.00 til 4.30 

Wolfson Research Exchange at the University of Warwick

Sherilyn MacGregor (Keele)

Vulnerable victims or resilient subjects? Dismantling the gendered discursive traps of climate change politics


Feminist activists and policy professionals have provided ample evidence that the impacts of climate change have gender dimensions, thereby putting gender on the international climate agenda.  Feminist academics have been much slower to take up the issue, resulting in a shortage of theoretical scholarship on gender and climate change.  What can feminist political theorizing contribute to the project of developing gender-sensitive responses to this serious global challenge?   I argue that one task should be to complement field-based research on women’s experiences of climate change with feminist constructivist analyses of how discursive framings of ‘the problem’ and policy solutions often serve to reinforce neoliberal, patriarchal power relations.   Understanding the complex workings of ideology, language, and power can help us to beware the discursive traps that inevitably threaten all those who work for counter-hegemonic social change.  To illustrate this approach, I use feminist critical discourse analysis to interrogate the emergence of a vulnerability-resilience dualism that now dominates climate policy at all levels.   I show that within the adaptation literature, the construction of the ‘resilient subject’ in opposition to the ‘vulnerable victim’ fits squarely within the dominant post-political agenda: it is founded on scientistic and masculinist values; it naturalizes neoliberal rationalities of governance; and it deflates the political capacities and identities of people as citizens.  The vulnerable climate victim is weak, usually feminized, and in need of ‘knowledge transfer’ in order to become robust and self-reliant enough to survive and thrive in harsh new conditions beyond control.  Not only does this simplistic binary ignore complexities on the ground, including the dubious construction of masculine resilience, but it also removes expectations of citizen resistance to the root causes of ecological crisis, thereby casting it as non-political fait accompli. I argue that feminist theoretical analyses should expose and devise strategies for avoiding this and other discursive traps that exist within the sphere of climate change politics and policy.

Biographical note

Dr Sherilyn MacGregor (PhD York University-Toronto) is senior lecturer in Environmental Politics and director of the Environmental Studies programme at Keele University in the UK. Her research expertise lies in the fields of gender politics and environmental politics, with a special focus on the theoretical and policy connections between sustainability, citizenship and social reproduction. She is joint editor of Environmental Politics journal and director of PublicSpace, a not-for-profit company specializing in research communication in the public interest.

Lopa Saxena (Coventry)

Gender, Climate Change and Food Sovereignty in South Asia: an exploration from a feminist political ecology perspective
In South Asia as in many other agrarian economies in the developing South, the gendered impacts of Climate Change have led to women being disproportionately affected posing a substantial threat to food security. On the other hand, Food Sovereignty is attracting much attention as a form of resistance to dominant neo-liberal influences on food, agriculture and rural development. I am exploring the relation between the two from a Feminist Political Ecology perspective looking at some of the issues in relation to production, gender and climate change adaptation.

Biographical note
Dr Lopa Saxena has recently become a Research Associate in the Centre for Agro-ecology, Water and Resilience in Coventry University. Previously she was working as an independent researcher on consultancies and has worked on University-led team projects. Her research interests include Food Security, Climate Change and Gender, Vulnerability and Resilience, Gender and Disasters, Sustainable Land and Water use Practices, and Women Entrepreneurship. She holds a PhD in Environmental Economics and Environmental Management from the University of York (UK).

Rebekah Martin is an MA student on the Gender and International Development programme in the Department of Sociology at Warwick. She will introduce the film ‘Missing: the forgotten women in India’s climate plans’.

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