A Radical More-Than-Human Intersectionality in Ecologically Compromised Times: Toward an Attunement to Nonhumans and Indigenous Knowledges

A Radical More-Than-Human Intersectionality in Ecologically Compromised Times: Toward an Attunement to Nonhumans and Indigenous Knowledges

Sanita Fejzic (Queen's University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2819-8.ch028

Abstract

Gender-based analysis+(GBA+) efforts by the Canadian government that attend to climate change often focus on ‘sustainable management' of ‘resources' alongside inclusion of vulnerable groups at decision-making tables; meanwhile, scholars and activists focus attention toward eco- and social-justice models couched in good nation-to-nation relations with Indigenous communities. This chapter suggests that attunement to Indigenous knowledges and other-than-humans (nonhuman animals, plants, and elements such as water) is necessary in the wake of global ecological collapse, founded on principles of responsibility and respect of Indigenous sovereignty over land and attunement to Indigenous ‘caretaking relations' with other-than-humans.
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Introduction

This chapter is a literature review that aims to understand the Canadian government’s gender-based analysis + (GBA+) in relation to Indigenous and other-than-human relations. Other-than-humans include all species in the animal kingdom except humans—the plant and fungi kingdoms, as well as protists, archaea, and bacteria, and what in the West is considered non-life such as water and rock. When speaking of other-than-humans, this essay makes no hierarchical distinction between organic and inorganic beings. Humans and other-than-humans are all, as Bennett says, ‘vibrant materialities’, part of (organic and inorganic) networks and processes (Bennett, 2010). The first part of this chapter collates peer-reviewed academic articles and grey literature to understand Canadian GBA+ discussions and practices over the last five years. The purpose of this chapter is to provide insights for:

  • 1.

    How has gender-based analysis (GBA) functioned in the Canadian government?

  • 2.

    What are the distinctions between GBA and GBA +?

  • 3.

    How does the co-flourishing of other-than-humans complicate the way we conceive of GM?

  • 4.

    How may attunement to Indigenous knowledge subvert Western power structures and modes of governing?

Over 825 articles were screened for inclusion in the literature review, reduced to 67 articles and documents related to GBA+ in Canada and climate change, and finally to zero articles concerning human-centric conceptual frameworks that attend to Indigenous perspectives in the Canadian GBA+ context. The trend in current research is to consider gender mainstreaming efforts in the context of climate change from a Western perspective. This is the first paper to focus on GBA+ efforts in Canada emphasising attunement to Indigenous knowledge and other-than-humans.

Studies focusing specifically on GBA+ and climate change in the industrialized world tend to view climate change in Euro-centric terms, understanding nonhumans as “natural resources” to be “managed” and “developed,” including water and land. Animals and plant life are broadly defined in terms of private property to be “managed sustainably.” There is also a marked emphasis on atmospheric weather patters and water management in the context of GBA+ policies aimed at climate change.

The first section of the chapter, “Gender Mainstreaming Efforts by the Canadian Federal Government: GBA, GBA+, Climate Change, and Indigenous Relations”, emphasizes empirical studies in the Canadian context. The second half of the chapter is deeply conceptual and speculative because no articles were found in the literature review that focused on GBA+ initiatives in Canada in the context of Indigenous and other-than-human relations. The section is divided into three parts, grounded in material feminist, ecofeminist, and posthumanist critiques presented as conceptual building blocks for future empirical studies in the intersections between GBA+, Indigenous Knowledge, and other-than-human relations. Building on work done by material feminists such as Karen Barad, Stacey Alaimo, Donna Haraway and others, the second half of the chapter is radically opposed to human essentialism and human exceptionalism. As such, managers and policymakers may find it difficult to use this theory for GBA+ policy reform. Radical transformation is not always compatible with incremental policy reforms that (often unintentionally) reproduce patriarchal, neocolonial systems of power. The author demonstrates why it is important to revolutionize GBA+ through attunement to Indigenous knowledge and other-than-humans.

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Background

This study aims to open a discursive space for a more-than-human intersectional model of gender mainstreaming attuned to the needs of other-than-humans in our ecologically compromised times. To subvert patriarchy and other systems of domination and oppression, the study examines alternative modes of knowing and being in the world (alternative epistemologies and ontologies) by thinking with Indigenous scholars and activists. The choice to think with Indigenous scholars Kim TallBear and Robin Wall Kimmerer, for example, was made because of their focus on better relations to land, water, and the diverse network of non-humans.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Entanglement: Entanglement refers to a deeply relational account of Being (ontology) in which entities/bodies never pre-exist as separate bodies with clear and determined boundaries that then combine or interact with other pre-existing bodies. Agents/bodies/entities do not precede their observations or relationships; rather, they emerge intra-actively and are always already entangled.

Intra-Action: The mutual constitution of entangled agencies. An agent is anyone or anything that acts or engages in action. Intra-action therefore acknowledges the impossibility of absolute separation between bodies and thus subverts classical objectivity.

Attunement: Attunement pertains to the manner, or mood, in which we orient ourselves toward the world. It calls on us to tune into our surroundings, to be intuitively and emotionally aware of the world, which in turn defines our existence.

Ecofeminism: The ‘eco’ in ecofeminism stands for ecology. Ecofeminism critiques Western binaries, including the notion that women are ‘naturally’ subordinate to men or that nature—often characterized as feminine—is opposed to and/or inferior to masculinist culture.

Transcorporeality: Transcorporeality pertains to fluidity between material and theoretical bodies, challenging dualities and dichotomies. Transcorporeality assumes inter- and intra-connections, intra-actions, entanglements and transits between human and other-than-human bodies.

Anthropocene: The current geological epoch characterized by human systems of production and ways of being that have a dominating and often negative influence on climate, ecosystems, the environment, humans, and other-than-humans.

Geontology: Geontopower operates through distinctions and regulations between Life and Nonlife, Being and Nonbeing. Under settler neoliberalism, a rock, a lake and a fossil are Nonlife and Nonbeing, and are therefore unworthy of care or justice. Geontopower calls into question boundaries and borders and helps tear down the walls of disciplined knowledge to reveal the artificial boundaries between Being and Nonbeing. The concept of geontopower helps deconstruct discourses and practices that delegitimize caring for inorganic entities.

Indigenous Knowledge: Local and indigenous knowledge refers to the understandings, skills and philosophies developed by societies with long histories of interaction with their natural surroundings.

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