I was recently asked to do some more work on gender and food sovereignty for a forthcoming book project. So this week, while I get some thoughts together on that and some other ongoing projects, I thought I’d share a couple of abstracts for my more formal work. The readers of this blog are almost exclusively friends and family (Hi, y’all!), so this gives an idea of what I’ve been up to. The first is the official abstract for my journal article “Food Sovereignty and Gender Justice” that was published at the end of last summer. The second is the description of a new work in progress that I presented at an environmental philosophy conference last fall. If anyone is really interested in reading this more formal philosophical work, let me know and I’m happy to share!
“Food Sovereignty and Gender Justice”
Food sovereignty asserts the right of peoples to define and organize their own agricultural and food systems so as to meet local needs and so as to secure access to land, water and seed. A commitment to gender equity has been embedded in the food sovereignty concept from its earliest articulations. Some might wonder why gender justice should figure so prominently in a food movement. In this paper I review and augment the arguments for making gender equity a central component of food sovereignty. The most common argument is: if women constitute the majority of the world’s food producers, then agricultural policy is a women’s issue. And insofar as patriarchal social relations continue to dominate the globe, then changing agricultural policies will require explicit attention to gender injustice. I suggest that this is a good argument, but that an ecological feminist perspective can provide additional theoretical reasons for maintaining the centrality of gender justice in food sovereignty discourse. Moreover, ecological feminism can provide a robust theoretical framework that coheres a concept and movement with a wide set of concerns. My critique positions food sovereignty’s call to social justice as embedded in a truly radical re-thinking of dominant conceptual frameworks, and re-envisioning of political and ethical relations.
“Recognizing Nonhuman Intentionality Through Playful ‘World’-travel: The Case of Urban Foraging”
This paper will begin to put the work of feminist philosophers Val Plumwood and María Lugones into conversation in order to explore the connections between Plumwood’s intentional recognition stance and Lugones’ idea of playful world-travel. Lugones’ work emphasizes the dispositional element of openness, while Plumwood’s work brings our attention to interspecies ethics. I will ground this philosophical exploration with a discussion of urban foraging, which I will suggest provides a nice illustration of how Plumwood’s intentional recognition stance might be playfully animated by humans inhabiting more-than-human worlds.
Plumwood (1993, 2002) advances the idea of the ethical ecological self as an expansive relational self, in co-constituting, non-instrumental relationship with human and earth others. Adopting what she calls “the intentional recognition stance” is positioning oneself as open to the agentic and dialogical potential of earth others. This facilitates the inclusion of their flourishing as among one’s own primary ends, the key to non-instrumental relationship. Lugones (1987) advances the idea of playfulness in response to the experience of being at ease in some social contexts, or “worlds,” and ill at ease in others, along with the experience of possessing an attribute in one world that one does not possess in other worlds. Lugones describes playfulness as a “metaphysical attitude” of openness to surprise, and the lack of expectation that the world will be “ruly.” As such it is an openness to creative self-construction, and to the construction of worlds without the assumption that any of the rules there are “sacred.”
I will suggest that Lugones’ conception of playfulness provides an attitudinal, experiential expression of the intentional recognition stance – of how it feels to move about with a posture of openness, to engage dialogically with intentional others as well as with the “worlds” themselves. For Plumwood, our ethical responses – respect, care, solidarity – are predicated on the openness of the intentional recognition stance. For understanding oneself as an ecological being, in relationship with earth others who are intentional and communicative beings with their own ends, makes it possible to conceive of those relationships in ethical and political terms. For Lugones, world-traveling with a playful, open attitude allows for those victims of arrogant perception to be known as subjects.
The case of urban foraging provides an example of what the playful adoption of the intentional recognition stance might look like. As described by political ecologists Melissa Poe, et al (2014), urban foragers are often purposefully attuned to the more-than-human agency at work in co-inhabited urban spaces, and describe their foraging practices as involving mutual recognition across species. They describe foraging as a “communicative project not only between different groups of people, but also between people and more-than-human nature” (2014, 15).
However, despite the resonances between the two thinkers’ work, and the narrative possibilities they afford our interpretations of some interspecies practices, the conversation leaves me with several looming questions. Lugones’ work demonstrates how moving about and interacting playfully and lovingly can be ontologically revelatory. She takes the experience of world-travel as evidence of a plurality of selves. “Those of us who are ‘world’-travellers have the distinct experience of being different in different ‘worlds’ and of having the capacity to remember other ‘worlds’ and ourselves in them…without quite having the sense of there being any underlying ‘I’” (Lugones 1987). If playful world travel is an attitudinal reflection of the openness of the intentional recognition stance, and the experience of playful world travel is accepted as ontologically revelatory in the way Lugones describes, what does this imply about the ontological status of the ecological self? Is the intentional recognition stance best fostered through an appeal to the ontological multiplicity of self? Does such a claim strengthen or weaken ourunderstanding of selves as ecological?
Lugones, María. 1987. “Playfulness, ‘World’-travelling, and Loving Perception.” Hypatia 2(2): 3-19.
Poe, Melissa, Joyce LeCompte, Rebecca J. McLain and Patrick T. Hurley. 2014. “Urban Foraging and the Relational Ecologies of Belonging.” Environmental Studies Faculty Publications. Paper 6.
Plumwood, Val. 2002. Environmental Culture: The Ecological Crisis of Reason. London: Routledge.
———. 1993. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. London: Routledge.