(Re)Imagining Transformative Livelihoods through Feminist Geographies

Authors: Ann Oberhauser*, Iowa State University
Topics: Development, Economic Geography, Gender
Keywords: feminist livelihoods, transformative economic strategies, Global South, ethical practices
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Livelihoods literature has an extensive and rich history that is informed by development studies, feminist studies, and critical approaches to analyzing how power and resiliency are embedded within economic strategies. This paper focuses on feminist perspectives that contribute to these dialogues and particularly the socio-spatial and material dimensions of how people earn their living. Geographic dimensions of diverse livelihood strategies include multiple and intersecting scales, people’s mobility in securing livelihoods, as well as distinct, yet overlapping rural and urban spaces. Feminist political ecology sheds light on environmental aspects of livelihoods where access to and control over resources have the potential to augment or undermine sustainable livelihoods. Other dimensions of feminist geography have interrogated power relations in the research process and ethical issues that arise in qualitative approaches that are often employed in these studies.

This paper shifts livelihood approaches that focus on gender to critically examine ways in which gender, race, and other social identities are co-produced, negotiated, and transformed in the livelihood process. The discussion establishes the foundation for radically new and (re)imagined approaches to fundamental questions surrounding how people navigate the power dynamics within social identities, economic processes, and institutional frameworks to support themselves, their households, and communities. The analysis engages with a conceptual framework that aligns with diverse and informal economies alongside market-oriented strategies, local practices within neoliberal globalization, and ethics of care. Overall, I argue for a feminist approach that addresses the tensions and opportunities for reimagining feminist livelihoods through sustainable avenues of resistance and transformation.

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