Intersectionality and Triage: Accountability in accounting for difference in conservation research and action with communities, a look at work from South India.

Authors: Mara Goldman*, University of Colorado, Boulder, Shruthi Jagadeesh, University of Colorado-Boulder
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Women, Asia
Keywords: gender, intersectionality, India, feminist political ecology, forests
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Roosevelt 5, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


It is well known that access to and knowledge about environmental resources diverge across various social categories of difference (i.e. gender, class, cast, class,...). Feminist political ecology uses Intersectionality as a lens to highlight power across difference in negotiating access to resources, and producing naturecultures. Much of the original work exposing the gendered and intersectional dimensions of environmental access/knowledge came from India. How then, can it then be that scholarly research and outreach with forest dwelling communities on environmental rights, access, and knowledge in India, can continue to deny the importance of gender and other categories of difference?

I argue that a form of ‘triage’ occurs when scholars choose to focus on one category of difference, such as a ‘tribal’ identity, while ignoring others, including gender. In this way gender becomes an ‘unknown known’—something long made visible by scholarship, evoked by gender-based organizations, and evident in daily interactions. Yet, research and action on rights and knowledge in forests, systematically denies these differences, by excluding the participation of women. This may be through active triage—choosing a difference that has the most traction (i.e. ‘tribal), and not wishing to muddy this category. Or it may be a more subtle (if unconscious) desire to not challenge social norms in place mediating their own behavior, or the behavior of community members. Both possibilities rely on the continued dismissal of ‘knowns’ –that all environmental issues are gendered— which obscures research and action, continuing cycles of erasure and disenfranchisement.

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