On the necessity and applicability of feminist theory in marine social science: a critical review

Authors: Sallie Lau*, University of Washington, Annet Pauwelussen*, Wageningen University, Forest and Nature Conservation Group
Topics: Gender, Coastal and Marine, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: gender studies, ocean equity, feminist theory, fisheries, decolonial theory, marine social science, literature review
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 30
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As we head into the UN Ocean Decade, the field of marine social science is grappling with several overarching issues of injustice and assymetric power relations. These issues include the blue economy and its cooptation of ‘equity,’ the mainstreaming of gender in marine policy making, and unquestioned ontological and epistemological claims to the nature and politics of marine conservation. Left unaddressed, these conditions unevenly distribute benefits, rights, and representation between men and women, settler and indigenous societies and the global north and south. Asymmetries also persist in whose knowledge counts and between different ways of understanding, valuing and ordering human-ocean relations. Feminist and decolonial approaches expose how gendered and hierarchical logics undergird capitalist, colonial frames of thought that threaten the wellbeing of human-nature communities. Both approaches challenge these logics and bring forth different kinds of environmental care and justice by centering relational and often marginalised epistemologies and ontologies. We review gender studies and feminist theory within and without environmental studies, analyse practices in applying them in marine social science literature, and find overlaps and differences between the two. We identify the ways current methodologies reflect power differences and sketch out how feminist praxes can be applied to reframe human-ocean relations, in order to build dialogues and knowlegde exchanges on equitable terms.

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