I am a feminist political ecologist. Feminist political ecology (FPE) concerns the embodied politics of making and claiming knowledge about nature, place, culture and technologies. I contribute to several collaborative projects, which highlight key areas of FPE linking research, education and activism, including:
The Well-being, Ecology, Gender and cOmmunity – Innovation Training Network (WEGO-ITN) is the first international feminist political ecology research network of its kind. WEGO-ITN aspires to tackle socio-ecological challenges linked to policy agendas. This innovative and path-breaking project will help local communities to build resilient, equitable and sustainable futures. The goal of WEGO-ITN is to provide research that will demonstrate to policy makers how communities actively sustain and care for their environment and community well-being.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 764908-WEGO 2018-2021
Vermont is one of eight US States without an Environmental Justice policy. Rural Environmental Justice Opportunities Informed by Community Expertise (REJOICE) is a coalition between Dr. Bindu Panikkar, myself and our graduate and undergraduate students, community organizations including Community Action Works (formerly Toxics Action Center), the Center for Whole Communities, and Vermont Law School. Our research identifies and articulates how Vermonters experience and frame environmental injustice in their own terms in order to create a meaningful, community-informed, statewide environmental justice policy framework for the Spring 2021 state legislative session. Our purpose is to ensure those most impacted by environmental decision-making and climate change are valued as experts in shaping visions of what environmental justice looks like in Vermont. We are exploring how EJ activism and FPE can advance novel understandings of intersectional embodied environmental knowledge and subjectivities. We are centering equity and justice in our efforts to influence the state’s policy-making. This shift will require the state to center frontline communities through public gatherings and inter-agency meetings, so that we can continue to emphasize environmental justice in Vermont.
Feminist Digital Natures
A project with Dr. Roberta Hawkins (More coming soon!). Thus far, I have explored how digital technologies co-produce techno-scientific ideas about nature and transform places in sustainability projects. I have worked with Dr. Bram Büscher and colleagues to study the politics of social media platform usage in conservation work, which we termed ‘nature 2.0’. I have approached the concept of ‘nature 2.0’ longitudinally, examining the multi-decade, inter-species digital embodiment and labor of Dr. Francine (Penny) Patterson and her (late) lowland gorilla companion Koko. One of the earliest examples of nature 2.0, they had initially gained widespread public attention via National Geographic magazine and documentary films in the 1980s. They embraced AOL chat rooms, Facebook and other social media platforms to physically and economically sustain themselves and their dream of building an Africa-like sanctuary in Maui. I also completed a collaborative project with Emma Tait on the production of digital outer space natures in the digital game, No Man’s Sky.
Next, I am preparing to conduct auto-ethnographic analysis of a multi-institutional project developing novel sensors for detecting and monitoring reactive phosphorous (a nutrient) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) (a toxin) in Vermont’s socio-environmental landscapes. I am preparing to examine the kinds of publics and claims to expertise that this new digital data co-produces
Campus Green and Gold (CGG)
Campus Green and Gold: Techno-politics and the Greening of Higher Education Campus Spaces, critically examines expertise in making Higher Education Institution (HEI) campuses sustainable. My students and I analyze campus sustainability professionals (CSPs) who are tasked with leading, producing and promoting ‘green’ HEI campus aesthetics and data for national-level sustainability rating and ranking systems. This project also centers the practices and discourses that become meaningful ‘green’ interventions on campuses in the State of Vermont. I apply collaborative and critical feminist ‘event ethnography’ as a way of training undergraduate researchers and of analyzing how conference event spaces co-produce CSP subjectivities and expertise. I have also partnered with CSP colleagues in two sustainability conferences to advance environmental justice and FPE perspectives in campus sustainability.
Contested Expertise and Subjectivities in the Woodlands of Zambézia, Mozambique
This project applies a feminist political ecology approach to examine the contested knowledges and identities shaping rural development and environmental justice interventions to ‘save’ miombo woodlands and the communities that sustain them in Zambézia, Mozambique. This work details how local woodland residents, environmental activists and rural development workers attempt to bridge radically different views of nature and to position themselves as leaders, heroes, patrons and experts. I highlight the banal, embodied practices of daily sweeping, policing resource and land use, distributing fruit tree resources, meals and ‘orphan kits’. I trace environmental assertions and rumors in their transformation of miombo woodland landscapes.