Feminism(s) and Degrowth: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Corinna Dengler, Camila Rolando Mazzuca and Renda Belmallem
The Feminisms and Degrowth Alliance (FaDA) network was launched in September 2016 at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest. As an inclusive network of both academics and activists, FaDA aims at fostering a dialogue between feminists and degrowth proponents and at making feminist reasoning an integral part of degrowth activism and scholarship. Over the last two years, the network has mainly operated in form of a mailing list. In the summer of 2018, FaDA was able to continue this dialogue at both the 6th International Degrowth Conference in Malmö and at the 1st North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimiento in Mexico City. In the following, we briefly present the main outcomes of FaDA’s activities at the two conferences and summarize the current state of discussion.
FaDA’s activities at the 2018 Degrowth Conferences
Both in Malmö and Mexico City, FaDA had its kick-off in a four-hour participatory session before the official opening ceremonies. The aim of these strategic meetings was to present the results of the FaDA survey circulated by Jolanda Iserlohn in January 2017 and discuss FaDA’s identity, content, logistics, common activities and – more generally – how to proceed. In Malmö, the strategic meeting was followed by three special sessions on Feminism(s) and Degrowth. A session on masculinities supplemented these sessions. In Mexico, while there was no specific FaDA special session, the topic of feminism(s) and degrowth was well present in both keynote speeches and general panels.
The survey showed that FaDA members are coming from and are located (nearly) all over the world, have an immense variety of activist, academic and professional backgrounds and diverse experiences in feminisms and/or degrowth in both a more theoretical and everyday-life perspective.
Following an intervention from Stefania Barca in Malmö, there has been a lively discussion whether the network’s name ‘Feminism(s) and Degrowth Alliance (FaDA)’ is misleading. Rather than a simple ‘alliance’, it was argued that feminist reasoning should be an integral part of degrowth. There was a suggestion to ‘rename’ FaDA to F&D (Feminisms & Degrowth) at the Malmö conference and many people approved. At the Mexico conference, on the other hand, there were voices who advocated for the term ‘alliance’, claiming that for now an integrally feminist degrowth approach is a project in the making, and that the term ‘alliance’ is more likely to allow for a thorough reflection of contradictions and dissent that will inevitably arise at least with some strands of feminist scholarship. We are happy to continue this discussion at future conferences, but we also want to keep in mind that the ‘name issue’ is only the tip of the iceberg and tackles at least two more fundamental concerns.
First, as Ariel Salleh pointed out in her presentation on ecofeminism in a FaDA special session in Malmö, it is clear that not all feminisms do align equally well with a degrowth paradigm. The liberal feminist agenda to integrate all women into wage work without questioning the very category of ‘work’, for example, has little in common with degrowth reasoning. According to Ariel Salleh, ecofeminism is the feminist strand closest to degrowth, even though there remains a lot of work to clarify its non-essentialist nature. In her presentation, Stefania Barca identified Maria Mies’ and Marilyn Waring’s work as fruitful for the degrowth discourse. Other likely ‘fellow travelers’ for degrowth are materialist feminism, postcolonial feminism and the more radical parts of feminist economics. A mutually enriching integration of feminist and degrowth scholarship is a project in the making and FaDA sees it as its task to contribute to this endeavor.
Secondly, both at the Malmö and the Mexico City conference, FaDA members were eager to emphasize that FaDA must not become one of the many streams within degrowth. It is of the uttermost importance to understand gender relations as cross-cutting theme that fundamentally has a say in how we conceptualize the transformation towards a socially just and ecologically sound degrowth society. The pervasiveness of unequal gender relations in the capitalist system is so historically grounded that it requires a constant and in-depth attention for its deconstruction in all degrowth-related topics.
FaDA’s communication will continue via the FaDA mailing list (subscribe at firstname.lastname@example.org
At the moment, the coordination group is the only solid structure of FaDA. Until the summer 2018, the coordination group was constituted by Jolanda Iserlohn, Camila Rolando Mazzuca and Corinna Dengler. Today, the coordination group welcomes its new members Renda Belmallem, Anna Save-Harnack, Mariam Abazeri and Elisabeth Skarðhamar Olsen. Both the coordination group and the FaDA network are open and inclusive – we are always looking forward to welcoming new members.
FaDA’s Tentative Research Agenda
Both the survey and lively discussions at the two conferences in Malmö and Mexico City provided us with some ideas of a tentative research agenda for FaDA. Among other things it includes questions like:
(1) ‘How can care be organized in a degrowth society? Should it be remunerated or de-commodified?’
(2) ‘What do feminism and degrowth mean in the context of Southern countries? How can we learn from these experiences?’
(3) ‘How does degrowth have to be implemented to promote gender justice?’
(4) ‘How does hegemonic masculinity reproduce the capitalist growth paradigm? How can we transform masculinities in a degrowth society?’ and
(5) ‘What are feminist visions of ‘the good life’ in a degrowth society? What does emancipatory work look like in a degrowth society?’
While some of these topics were well present in the FaDA special sessions in Malmö and Mexico City (e.g. Corinna Dengler and Miriam Lang’s presentation on ‘Commoning Care in a Degrowth Society’) and in the network, other topics remained underexposed. There was a consensus that the question how masculinities relate to (de)growth should be on the future agenda of FaDA. The participatory session ‘Transforming masculinities for the degrowth transition’ hosted by Matthias Schmelzer and Dennis Eversberger in Malmö raised great interest among participants and showed the need of discussing the topic in more depth. For the conference in Mexico City, FaDA members prepared “Let’s avoid dominant masculinities / Evitemos las masculinidades dominantes”-signs and a bilingual poster that explained that masculinities and growth are closely linked and we cannot move forward a degrowth society without also talking about masculinities. The signs were to be raised silently and respectfully if someone showed excessive behaviour of dominant masculinity as a FaDA intervention to raise awareness.
For future degrowth conferences we hope to have both, FaDA special sessions, but also a focus on Feminism(s) in the general program. While regarding it worthwhile to have a strategic FaDA meeting at the beginning of the conferences, we would also like to have at least one FaDA open space throughout the future conferences. This slot should be announced in the official program and also attract people who are interested but not yet involved in FaDA. On more general terms, FaDA finds it crucial to work for a better inclusivity of women scholars and feminist perspectives at International Degrowth conferences. FaDA will be happy to support the conference organizers and/or the support group with guidelines for this and to support the support and/or local organizing group.
Last but not least, from a feminist perspective it is important to FaDA that degrowth conferences are not only spaces for intellectual exchange, but are also moments of conviviality. Participatory sessions and open spaces, influencing ‘cultures’ of communication (briefing moderators, having observers…) and an active participation in the reproductive work that comes along with conferences (chopping vegetables and serving the food we eat ourselves) constitute important steps towards overcoming the theory/practice divide. FaDA also deems it crucial for the local organizers of the future conferences to invite local activist feminist groups to actively participate in the conference.
In addition, FaDA hopes to become more visible in feminist circles. FaDA sessions at feminist conferences (e.g. the 2019 IAFFE conference in Glasgow), being present at feminist meetings, editing a special issue and making contributions in feminist journals are important steps that we are currently discussing.
How a feminist degrowth approach can alleviate ecological and gender injustices
Is it possible to reconcile sustainable development, a fair distribution of both paid and unpaid work among genders, and an economic strategy based on growth? In our article “The Monetized Economy versus Care and the Environment? Degrowth Perspectives on Reconciling an Antagonism”, a contribution to the 2018 Feminist Economics Special Issue on “Sustainability, Ecology, and Care”, we argue that the growth paradigm perpetuates existing gender and environmental injustices. We offer ‘degrowth’ as a potential candidate for a Feminist Ecological Economics perspective that could pave the way towards a ‘caring economy’. read more
We are happy to announce a follow up to our roundtable about feminism(s) and degrowth at the Degrowth Conference in Budapest 2016. Sharing many common points, feminisms and degrowth have the potential to build an alliance which promotes mutual enrichment. One intersection is the criticism of the dominant socio-economic mode. By criticising the centrality of productive performance and by further shifting attention to the conditions of reproduction and regeneration of the community, the hidden dimensions of the economy are challenged. read more
Saturday 1st June 2019 marked a significant occasion for the degrowth movement: the inaugural ‘Global Degrowth Day’. Groups of people gathered together in places all around the world to engage with ideas of degrowth and alternatives to our growth-based society, guided by the event’s theme of ‘a good life for all’.read more
In 2008, a few years after the birth of “décroissance” in France, we organized the first International Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Paris. Only ten years later, in 2018, we promoted three large international events in the same year: the 6th International Degrowth Conference in Malmö – following Barcelona, Venice, Leipzig and Budapest – as well as a macro-regional bilingual event with the first South-North-Degrowth conference in Mexico City and a thematic one in the European Union (EU) Parliament in Brussels. It was a risky, but successful bet for our small networks. We can observe that degrowth starts to play an important role in a broad range of notable academic and political discussions.read more
The 6th International Degrowth Conference finished on Saturday, the 25th of August with a demonstration under the rain in the center of Malmö. Typical weather for the end of August in Sweden, and very welcomed after the past worryingly dry months.read more
Degrowth: lost in plurality?
There seems to exist a gap in the degrowth discourse around the question of how to move towards a degrowth society. This brings to our attention an important concept – that of strategy. Here, we will use the word ‘strategy’ to refer to how the ends (i.e. a degrowth society) is achieved by the means. Having spent a number of years probing into the degrowth discourse and literature, we found it to be seemingly open to all strategies for pursuing radical transformation towards a socially and ecologically sustainable degrowth society. However, there is little debate on which strategy – or mix of strategies – might be more effective in different contexts (geographical, institutional, sectoral, cultural, etc.). Therefore, we argue that degrowth’s articulation of how the ends can be achieved by the means, can roughly be characterised by a ‘strategic indeterminance’.
Permaculture and degrowth are both movements whose foundational ideas were developed the 70’s, just as the evidence was amassing in the science world to be able to explain the consequences of unchecked growth and human-induced environmental degradation. As such, both movements are reactionary and propose a radical, ethics-based paradigm shift away from the globally dominant culture of over-consumption, towards a systems-based approach to sustainability and regeneration of both the social and ecological spheres.read more
Call for Hosting the 7th International Degrowth Conference
OPEN CALL for Hosting the 7th International Degrowth Conference (Foreseen for 2020) – We are open to different formats, like regional or thematic conferences.
This year the degrowth community celebrates the 10th anniversary of the first international degrowth conference in Paris (2008). This event introduced the originally French activist slogan décroissance into the English-speaking world and international academia as degrowth.
This is an open call for expressions of interest from parties who wish to organize the next conference(s). Apart from hosting the Seventh International Conference (foreseen for 2020), we are open to different formats and proposals, like hosting a national or regional conference, or an international thematic conference (e.g. refugees and degrowth, or feminisms and degrowth,…).
If you are interested, please:
1) Send us an expression of interest by the 15th of July, with a 1-2 pages tentative proposals; these can be a base for an informal conversation at the Malmö or Mexico City conferences, or an online call. Please send your proposals to: email@example.com
2) Submit your complete proposal in 5-10 pages by the 1st of December. Send your proposals to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ideally, if you intend to apply, please let us know so in advance, so that – in case there are any updates – we can easily let you know. However, it is not a necessary condition to let the SG know in advance.
For more information, please see:
In 2018 there will be three international conferences:
- 6th International Degrowth Conference: ‘Dialogues in turbulent times’ in Malmö (Sweden) on 21-25 August
- The First North-South Conference on Degrowth: ‘Decolonizing the social imaginary’ in Mexico City (Mexico) on 4-6 September
- Degrowth in the EU Parliament: Post-growth conference to challenge the economic thinking of EU institutions with influent EU policy-makers in the European parliament of Brussels (Belgium) on 18-19 September
We are looking forward to receiving your proposals, and working on them together.
The Support Group,
Research & Degrowth (R&D),
From a provocative activist slogan to an academic concept towards policy making
This year we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first international degrowth conference in Paris (2008). This event introduced the originally French activist slogan décroissance into the English-speaking world and international academia as degrowth. I want to take stock of the last decade in terms of conferences, publications, training and more recently policy making. I focus only on the academic achievements in English, leaving on the side both activism and intellectual debates in other languages (these are huge, especially in French, Spanish, Italian and German). This is not because I think it is more important, but simply because it is the process in which I have been personally involved.read more
Since the 2014 Leipzig Degrowth Conference, the argument that climate justice cannot exist without degrowth has repeatedly been made. In a keynote at the Degrowth conference in Budapest, in September 2016, I developed this line of thinking further and argued that the opposite is equally important: There is not degrowth without climate justice. My argument, which I presented as someone involved not only at the theoretical level, but also in concrete efforts to bring degrowth and climate justice together in terms of practices and people, is presented here in a concise way.read more
The debates around post-growth transitions to just socio-ecological futures – while undoubtedly variegated – all emphasize that such a transition will involve a fundamental change in the way we organize economic relations and processes. At a first glance, this implies both a nominal and a structural, change with corresponding shifts in production, labor and consumption patterns. read more
One of the most controversially discussed key tracks during the 5th International Degrowth Conference 2016 in Budapest was “Degrowth and other social movements”. Can degrowth be considered a movement? Does degrowth embrace all kinds of movements struggling for a sustainable future? On one hand, the notion of “degrowth movement(s)” was rigorously criticized for fragmenting the political struggle.read more
In the run-up to last year’s United Nations Climate Conference in Lima, Peru, a particular headline kept popping up, an attempt to once again establish a particular meme in the mind of global elites as well as wider populations: friends, the line goes, you’re right to worry about climate change, but – say the reports by, on the one hand, the International Monetary Fund, and on the other, the New Climate Economy Project (in essence a second Stern Report) – what you really, really shouldn’t do, is start believing that worrying about climate change should make you worry about trying to end economic growth’. Economic growth, so the story goes once again, can in fact be made to work very nicely with climate protection, if only it’s done the right way. read more