Friday, 2 February 2018

Zero waste movement- the second half.

Ooh, I'm so excited about this! And also, a little cautious. 

Those who know me will have noted that whilst my love of nature is epic, I've always had a vacillating relationship with the 'green movement'. Some lifestyle changes have been incredibly easy for me to adopt, for instance, making and using my own compost and switching to Ecotricity. On other aspects I have lagged, perhaps most glaring are the massive amounts of plastic and various non recyclables which end up in either my recycling or black bin bag. As a member of Generation X who tried to 'save the planet', a busy mother and PhD student, I've become overwhelmed and jaded. Overwhelmed by the sheer amount of plastic etcetera in my life, jaded, well, just in general really. So, whilst I've been happy to focus on homemade food, gardening and swapping coal for 'sustainable' fuel logs, as for the other stuff, it's been a case of ignore and chuck it in the recycling or landfill. I've come across the odd article about zero waste in say, Permaculture Magazine but I didn't bother reading it because frankly, it looked boring and 'worthy' to me, not to mention unachievable. Somehow though, I suddenly reached Peak Plastic.

As with the mysterious ways of the zeitgeist, along come a plethora of inspirational (and mainly but not exclusively) Millennial young women, who picked up the baton from where I left off and are Instagramming, blogging and vlogging all over the place, thereby enthusing and inspiring an enormous audience. Wow! What a contrast to the numerous discussions I've been privy to in the 'green movement', whereby people bemoan the movement's inability to engage people on a significant scale. Now that we're all about social media (bleugh, I hate that term), suddenly zero waste is voguish, desirable and notably, attainable. Don't own a house upon which to install solar panels? No worries! You can focus on simple zero waste 'swaps' and baby steps, explained via You Tube videos, blogs and Instagram pictures. Over on The Insta, I'm finding #zerowaste to be extremely engaging but it could be argued I find #greenwashing more so (more on this later). Anyway, I could not applaud these movers and shakers (aka 'influencers') more and delightfully, my ennui has vanished and I'm on fire, seeking out different ways of doing the same old things. 

I think one of the phenomena behind the movement's success (apart from the obvious use of social media) is that (largely) this new wave of zero wasters are young and thus frequently eating out-therefore some of the most conspicuous examples of a wasteful lifestyle are tangible in their everyday life. If, for instance they get 'coffee to go' in the morning and then grab a (plastic) bottle of water and 'food to go' for lunch, it doesn't take much to make the link between this and plastic bottles washing up on beaches the world over. Likewise, it doesn't take much to make a great swap: make your own lunch at home, pop it in a reusable container, find yourself a refillable water bottle and be sure to remember your reusable coffee cup too, or more frequently, a KeepCup (so pretty, so expensive and goodness, so corporate!). Clearly, this is just one small act which pretty much everyone could do, with modest initial financial outlay, fast financial return and if achieved on a big scale, would have impact. (Yes, I am aware that some will be shouting at the screen, "But I never stopped doing that anyway, you idiot!" and good for them too.) So, right there with the zero waste lunch, we have motivation, a tight feedback loop (you can keep track of your lunch resource use) and I think, a satisfying feeling of accomplishment and empowerment. If you will, a sense of, "I'm taking my power back from those wasteful capitalist companies and I'm voting with my dollar". 

And who can argue with that? I can't and whilst I was naturally moving in a more thoughtful and less wasteful direction, I'm now fully engaged and excited. Yes, I'm 'detoxing' my bathroom cabinet; yes, I'm going to sew my own washable cleaning cloths; and yes, I'm making more effort to buy vegetables from places which allow me to bring my own reusable bags. But no, I shalln't be buying a KeepCup; and no, I don't need an army of gorgeous new metal topped jars, when there'll be plenty of jam jars I can recycle, if only I can get the damn labels off! 

The sort of image flying round the internet versus...*

low waste storage using old jars.**

Which brings me to my caution. You see, zero waste logic is that we need to reuse as much as possible and ultimately ensure that less ends up recycled or in landfill. To do that, look around your own home before making purchases- cherish those old towels and sew yourself some dandy menstrual pads (or whatever). When you've determined that you need to buy a new something, hunt down the zero waste version, which joyfully will be aesthetically pleasing. And this is exactly the other reason I believe the movement has suddenly gained so much traction- those zero waste images are generally gorgeous and it's so temping to slake our consumerist urges with not really buying less but buying different. As an example, some of the zero waste packed lunch images which garner massive online engagement involve an attractive new stainless steel lunch box (because apparently, you can 'endlessly recycle steel'), like so: 

Yummy! Who wouldn't want their lunch to look like this? ***

But in reality, my water bottle looks shabby- not chic!

Back in real life, my own zero waste lunch bag is a mildly frumpy yet practical Cath Kidston bag, the bashed up bottle above, a scavenged vintage napkin and a tawdy old plastic 'tupperware' box. Due to my kit's lack of glamour, it's not made my Instagram feed but it does work.  I see no need to buy anything new, not least because at lunch, I often sit with Environmental Earth Scientists and I listen to what they have to say:-

You can't have mining (metal extraction) without an environmental legacy and some of these problems may be in evidence many years hence; we need to recycle glass due to dwindling silica reserves; it's tricky to make nice clear recycled glass; stainless steel can contain varying amounts iron, chromium, molybdenum, nickel and more (and some of these elements can be particularly toxic, thus care must be taken in production); and there's also some doubt over the ease of recycling stainless steel due to the various types in use. Ergo, for the good of the environment, we should only buy a handsome new metal topped jar when we've exhausted the other options.

So, bravo to my inspiring online lovelies, hoorah that they're making eco-friendly choices look beautiful but golly, we've got to beware, lest we neglect the first tenet of zero waste- that of  first using what we already have- and with some believing that 2018 is going to be the year that zero waste goes mainstream, we'd better be on our guard! I think the very thing which is making the movement such a success- the aesthetic appeal- is also the place in which we could most easily fail; it's just so tempting to go out an buy a whole new 'zero waste starter kit'. As ever, we're seeking a simple solution to an infinitely complex problem and who could blame us? We can but try and it is so good that this conversation is happening and not before time! 

I can't wait to read what you all think, do feel free to comment below.


P.S. I would like to thank the Environmental Earth Scientists from Aberystwyth University, who tolerate my lunchtime jabbering and magnanimously contributed to part of the intellectual content of this blog post. 


*Image from The Note Passer

** Image from Treading My Own Path

***Image from Eqo

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Creative Research Methods in practice

Oh my God, I had so much fun, it's hard to acknowledge that I was actually conducting research whilst playing this hard!

Meet Joanna Bond, Ceredigion ceramicist and general Amazing Artist Extraordinaire, the firestarter behind the fabulous Singing the Line into Existence project- a collaborative and artistic response to its  more worldly cousin, Traws Link Cymru- a formidable group of highly motivated and organised individuals, who are actively campaigning for the reinstatement of the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway line.

Joanna Bond, Ceramicist.

Got that? Good.

Let's go!

Actually, rewind, I need to explain a few things:

No 1- Butz and Berg urge the budding feminist geographer not only to acknowledge their own privilege and 'ghosts of masculinist culture', but to spend some of this privilege whilst conducting field work, to occupy peripheral and liminal space (Berg and Butz, 2002).

No 2 - Ever the would be mad scientist, I tried No 1 out in the field and found myself without compass, nor guide, and consequently stranded in a very confusing and boggy mire.

No 3 - As we discovered at Westminster and Birmingham on the two day workshop, Creative Research Methods (see previous post), creative research methods are collaborative by nature and the elements of fun and risk may well be involved. Why risk? Because you don't know the outcome, it could be a masterpiece, a disaster, or somewhere in between- everything is less predictable than conventional methods (for example semi-structured interviews, questionnaires). We also touched upon the notion that researcher and participant meet halfway, that creative research methods are bridge-like. This was the part that was really piquing my interest, as it links nicely back to where Butz and Berg left me floundering. 

No 4 - Broadly, my research focuses upon building socio-ecological resilience, which involves  reskilling and making things; and in a wider context, I need to be aware, at the very least, of community projects which seek to big time build resilience, such as the campaign to reopen the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth line. 

No 5 - All the above are interconnected in my mind but that's not much good because, yeah, that's just in my mind, as I said (and you don't want to go there). I need to make tangible links as man cannot survive on intuitive hunch alone (well, I can and I do but, 'Hello! Earth Calling').   

And so, what did we do? Well, Joanna very kindly invited me over to her studio where not only did I conduct a semi-structured interview but we both made clay tiles and then afterwards, I got to help her out for an hour or so, by way of reciprocation. Clay? Yes please! 

 Look at me, I'm like a pig in muck :) 

What did Joanna talk about? Geography? Making things? Environment and sustainability? Resilience? Yes. Connections between different elements? Oh yes, massive yes. 

Cutting the tile. 

What did I talk about? The research process, my research, some personal stuff (privilege spending- check), ways in which the research could be a win-win situation.  Ways in which I could help her out by way of thank you and, how very much I was enjoying the process. 

How did it differ to a sit down interview? It was a much longer session. We had more chit chat and spontaneous talk, as objects in the studio prompted discussion. I learnt a new skill, which tallies with the ethos of resilience building. 

Joanna with finished tiles.

To start with, Joanna was inspired to emboss clay tiles using plants and leaves- she was exploring the connection between humans, creativity and nature. She wanted to bring an environmental awareness into her work. In the summer of 2015, she walked a good 20 miles or so of the old Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway line, as part of Singing the Line into Existence. Along the way, she, with other artists (do see their website), sang, danced and did arty things, whilst also collecting grasses from the verge. We used these grasses to emboss our tiles. 

Grasses from Pont Llanio near Llandewi Brefi, and tile cutter.

Did I ask all the questions I usually do? Yes. And some. I hope that Joanna enjoyed herself as much as I did and I hope that I was useful helping out around the studio afterwards. I would describe the session as 'Field Work Plus'. For me, I was much more relaxed than usual because I'm a serious cookie and nothing brings out my playful side like creativity and so I think that Joanna got to interact with a lighter version of myself, for which she's probably (unknowingly) grateful. 

My embossed tile. I rolled the grasses into the clay and then peeled them off. 

Another advantage for the participant is that hopefully I didn't take as much of Joanna's valuable time as I might otherwise have, as by and large, she was able to carry on as per normal. Unless I am very much mistaken, I did sense that we were in partnership and I loved that feeling. 

Informed Consent Form in a pottery studio. Yes.

Have you brought any creative elements into your research process and would you be willing to comment?



Butz, D. and Berg, L.D. (2002) ‘Paradoxical Space: Geography, Men, and Duppy Feminism’. In Feminist Geography in Practice: Research and Methods, edited by Pamela Moss, pp87-102, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Creative Research Methods

I rarely use Twitter but by hap, it was during one of my intermittent visitations that I spied an advert for Creative Research Methods Workshops (see here), run by Professor David Gauntlett (University of Westminster, see here) and Amy Twigger Holroyd (Birmingham City University, see here), a collaboration between Birmingham City University and the University of Westminster (funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council- AHRC). Obviously, I immediately signed up as there was no doubt in my mind that this was something that I would adore.

Broadly speaking, creative research methods are those that employ a creative activity or shared experience ('creating' a memory, I suppose) with the aim that the participants are brought into a new space, in which they are not only free to enjoy the research process, but also to respond more fluidly to the research question. To put things more succinctly, a quote straight from the horse's mouth (aka the Creative Research Methods blog),

"Creative research methods are approaches to research where participants are invited to express themselves in non-traditional ways, such as through making a physical object or collage, or sharing an experience." (Creativeresearchmethods, 2013).

The two workshop sessions were designed to enable us to understand what creative research methods are, to experience some for ourselves as participants, to explore how they could be used to their best advantage, and whether they have associated pitfalls.

Certainly for the academic, creativity can successfully be employed when one encounters a mental block. Reading too many papers and working solely with black and white text sometimes produces a banging-head-against-brick-wall-effect. Scrawling and doodling ideas or thinking down on a big sheet of paper with coloured pens can help to see where the research is heading:- as seemingly random thoughts gain coherency, and flawed or missing research areas may be highlighted. Likewise, walking, dancing, music listening or making could similarly 'shake things up'. 

Workshop days in Birmingham and Westminster

Our first session involved bringing an object along which represented our research and then talking about this object. Predictably, I brought along my knitting. We found that holding an object served as a focus and made the process of explaining our research to strangers slightly less tricky. We then discussed creative research as a group and collectively doodled on big sheets of paper, to make 'posters'. They didn't necessarily 'look' like a conventional poster, but the process was fascinating and I think, extremely productive. Ideas and conclusions easily emerged from a previously blank sheet. By lunch time, a general consensus was reached:- that creative research methods embodied risk (these methods often start with seemingly 'nothing' but the hope that 'something' will emerge throughout the process); are often very enjoyable for researcher and participants alike; may even give the participants a heightened sense of awareness; and certainly break the ice most effectively. 

Impressive entrance to Birmingham City University, originally home to the Birmingham School of Architecture.

Participants discussing objects and how they can be used in research.

After lunch, we tested out walking as creative research in a session led by Zoë Millman (Birmingham City University, see here) and we went off (generally individually) around Birmingham for half an hour, recording our experiences and thoughts onto a MiniDisc (or similar device). Many participants reported an almost meditative, heightened sense of awareness; a feeling of having had 'thirty minutes fully to themselves' (a rest if you will); and others noticed that speaking into a microphone made them aware of thoughts they were not always so conscious of. We also noticed that we censored some thoughts, which was an interesting twist. Meanwhile, other participants shared a session led by David Gauntlett, who got them to make a Lego figure of their 'worst ever boss'. I wasn't there so can't comment much but caught wind of agreement that the session was very enjoyable and that the ephemeral nature of a Lego model fostered an easy creativity- one was not too het up on whether one was creating something completely 'perfect' or not.

Collaborative response.

As a geographer informed by feminist analysis, the most valuable aspect of using creative research methods is that because the sessions are participatory and the researcher becomes as involved as the participants, a shift in the power dynamic occurs:- researcher and participants 'meet half way'. The researcher is much less an 'expert' than with some other methods. In other words, this is a practical way that the researcher can 'spend' some of the 'male privilege' Butz and Berg speak about in their essay, 'Paradoxical Space: Geography, Men and Duppy Feminism' (see my previous post here).

A month later, I attended the second workshop day, this time at the University of Westminster. In the morning, we answered the question, 'What brought you to creative research methods?' and I found myself 'viewing' my PhD from a refreshing angle. The day culminated with a group knitting session led by Amy Twigger Holroyd. Amy provided us with a massive knitted I-cord, upon which were periodic 'knitting stations'. Those who could already knit helped those who had not tried it previously and at the end of the session, everyone tied a brown luggage tag to the work with a few surmising thoughts. I think it is safe to say that one surprise was how much people enjoyed this activity and it was noticed that because the participants were busy knitting, eye contact was broken, which helped people to feel more at ease. 

The question was, 'What brought you to creative research?'.

Communal knitting session as creative research method.

Individual 'knitting stations' along the I-cord.

Creative research as risky and dangerous?

Over the two days, the words 'risk' and 'danger' were sporadically banded about, so in the afternoon of the last session, we asked how 'risky' this activity might be? There was the worry that participants might become too relaxed and share more than they had bargained for. Of course, experiences that may produce a heightened sense of awareness could also draw hidden aspects of the psyche to the surface, but then again, this could happen in other, more conventional research settings, as participants talk about their experiences. Participants might not enjoy the research process, if for instance they found a certain activity upsetting and triggering:- for example, some have bad associations with drawing, making, singing, dancing and so on. It was agreed that transparency at the onset is a good measure; 'Don't get involved if you hate drawing so much that this will be distressing', sort of idea. In all however, we kept agitating about the 'risky' factors throughout the two days and eventually almost shrugged them off, as it was clear that most people present had simply had too much fun engaging with familiar and unfamiliar activities amongst a group of strangers! Of course, one risk identified was that creative methods were unconventional and new thus, less predictable than tried and tested methods such as questionnaires- here the risk is perhaps mainly to the researcher themselves. However, to counter this argument, it was very much agreed that these methods, whilst still developing, are fantastic at tapping into knowledge which otherwise might stay hidden. 

As researcher, I found these sessions invaluable. When I arrived at Birmingham, my research was suffering from hiatus and I did find it unsettling to actually confront this in the first session and tell the other participants about my woes. Following on from this, things improved not only dramatically but swiftly, and I can confidently say that a whole new lease of life and confidence has been breathed into my PhD research. I am also deeply inspired to have been given practical examples of how one might be able to reduce the privilege of the researcher and thus change dubious power dynamics.

I would like to sincerely thank all those who shared the two days with me, be they organisers or participants: I had a great time!


 Twitter hashtag: #creativemethods

Sunday, 2 September 2012

I could not agree more

I could not agree more with Paul Kingsnorth who writes in The Guardian on facebook about the neogreens, who view technocentric solutions to environmental problems as the only viable option (we're talking nuclear power, GM crops, nano technology, biotechnology and the like) because, well, there is nothing else left. The neogreens believe that we have failed at garnering effective progress on the environmental front because environmentalists have had us arguing this and that, discussing the merits of one solution over another, with little or no engagement of heart and soul:- an intellectual debate is never really going to be fully mobilising on its own. I have to admit that following a recent visit to IBERS (Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences) at Aberystwyth, to see the new National Plant Phenomics Centre, find out a little bit about genomics (working with DNA) and listen to the arguments the scientists were giving us, I have a better understanding of where the neogreens are coming from. Amongst other things, IBERS are engaging with what they call 'sustainable intensification', which includes the breeding of special crops in order to lessen the use of artificial fertilisers. I'm not sure how far along the line towards genetic modification some of their work is- I am not a biologist thus unqualified to comment. My understanding (which may or may not be correct), is that some of their new crops are developed through hybridisation programmes whilst concurrently they are working with DNA. I learnt that IBERS are  developing a strain of Miscanthus to be used as a biofuel and I met bovines munching on a special experimental feed said to ahem, reduce their methane emissions. I was unprepared for what came next- my undeniable enthusiasm to be shown round an experimental bio-ethanol plant run by BEACON (The Biorefining Centre of Excellence), where rye grass will be converted to bio-ethanol for fuel. It was all those Mad Professor distillation devices, gleaming silver with pipes and pressure tanks that did it, plus a machine which is essentially an overgrown juicer- woot!

Despite my own strongly ecocentric tendencies and yearnings, it cannot (to my mind at least), be denied that these new technologies might well have a place- a sort of demon-is-better-than-devil place. I am still not fully swayed nor converted, yet I can see the undeniable application and appeal, especially when realistically, the likelihood is that only ever a given percentage of farmers will ever want or be able to convert fully to organic methods, and we're constantly hearing so much stuff about oil insecurity. I do sympathise with the neogreens... Anyway, Kingsworth blames the environmental lobby for neglecting all those unquantifiable, sentiment aspects of our relationship with nature, leaving a gaping hole, which is being exploited (quite rightly) by the neogreens,

"Any campaign to protect the wild world which avoids acknowledging our intuitive, emotional relationship with it will leave itself open to the kind of heartless ideological approach it is now receiving from the neogreens."*

This echoes my sentiment in a previous post that what really got me engaged with resilience was not the intellectual arguments about peak oil and climate change but the simple love of making things. Kingsworth advocates that we re-root ourselves, throw the politics and lofty ideas out of the window and instead get messy with life, go for as long walk and rummage around in the brown earth. A bit of poetry would not go amiss either. I'm down with this, and why? Because it feels right to me. 

Myself and Fulbright scholars visiting the fascinating IBERS.

Nonetheless, my own beating heart
is still more stirred by sweat peas escaping an allotment.

*Paul Kingsworth, 'The new environmentalisim: where men must act 'as gods' to save the planet', The Guardian on facebook.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Peak oil aint happening no more- reflections on George Montbiot and Transition Culture

I have just read an article in the Guardian online by George Montbiot saying that basically, peak oil isn't happening any time soon. Yay! Perhaps I will be able to afford diesel once more?

Montbiot says that with new investment, technological advances in extraction methods and exploration of oil reserves in Iraq and also North America, we'll have a lot more oil at our disposal- we're even looking at a new boom in production. Now, George rightly points out that for the last twenty or so years, environmentalists have been trying to get us to reduce carbon emissions and the like, via ethical and environmental arguments. They didn't really succeed, did they? More recently, some environmentalists have tried a new tack, that of economic pressure due to rising fuel costs hitting our pockets and purses hard. Part of this movement is of course, Transition Culture. When Rob Hopkins came to Lampeter in 2007, I remember him saying that he found people were generally more interested about what they put into their vehicle (fuel i.e. MONEY) than what came out their vehicle (emissions). Thus, Hopkin's logic was that rising fuel costs would anchor public engagement and in some cases lead to the adoption of Transition Culture.

I've been reading work by both Peter North and Bailey et al. on relocalisation*. North explains that intentional localisation (the production of food, energy, goods, services and currencies at a local level) is a fitting response to both peak oil and climate change. Intentional localisers would include Transitioners, Small is Beautiful advocates, anti supermarket campaigners and those participating in local currency schemes. Bailey et al. note that the peak oil arguments seem to be derived from a narrow range of literature. Crucially, perhaps, Bailey et al. point out that the precise timing of peak oil does not actually seem to bother intentional relocalisers, "The issue for relocalisation advocates, therefore, is not the timing of peak oil but the need to develop energy descent strategies to avert societal collapse." (Bailey, et al., 2009:4). Of course, peak oil is not the only threat looming receding (depending on stance) and we certainly can hardly deny the need to curb carbon dioxide emissions- although some do try. My take on this is that intentional localisers want to get down and get gardening irrespective of whether the peak oil literatures are completely accurate, or not. I think this is a really vital point. Personally, I attempt to implement micro localisation strategies into my own life (for example, my sewing, knitting and crochet escapades as illustrated in my craft blog, The Awen of Papillon Noir) because, via Hopkins' peak oil arguments, I got the reskilling bug and now I can't stop. Meanwhile however, George Montbiot is at a loss, he ends his article saying that he can't bear to look his children in the eye anymore. Why? Because, I suppose, he was hoping that the peak oil crisis would be the wake up call he'd been waiting for and that it might be a big enough shock to galvanise, or indeed, force the public and governments into less environmentally destructive lifestyles and actions. So, he is perhaps expressing lack of faith that we could possibly be motivated to change by anything other than money. After all, we have tried the environmental ethical guilt trip for years, and failed, by and large.

This brings me back to Bailey et al. and also Hopkins who talk about the possibility of relocalising, resilience building and reskilling as being enjoyable. It has certainly been my own observation that intentional localisers seem happy to grow their own food, install solar panels and make more of what they need at home or in the community because... they just like it. Much of my crafting activities tick the relocalisation and resilience building boxes. I am relocalising production of many of the goods needed by myself and my family right back into my home. Much of my favourite fabric and yarn is at least manufactured in the UK. Half of the ingredients in my home made pot pourri are homegrown. These are baby steps but in a forward motion nonetheless. Yes, Transition Culture, resilience building and the threat of peak oil were big motivators. This is very true. But. The greatest motivator for me has always been pleasure. I really truly love making things. I adore gardening. It makes me happy. I know my fiancé is very contented when he makes his own cakes, chutneys and pickles. I doubt he's giving peak oil a second thought but he is merrily whistling away, pot on stove a bubblin', beetroot and rhubarb at the ready. Simple things do, it seems, make us happy. And happiness is a huge motivational force. So, perhaps we need not give up hope just yet. We might do well to set our sail toward what make our hearts sing because in some instances, this might unintentionally concur with the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and the building of resilience.

See? Growing your own makes you happy.
("Man tending to his garden' ©

So yes, this is what I shall try out: happiness building activities which as a by product just happen to build resilience and also reduce reliance upon fossil fuels.


*Bailey, L. et al. (2009) ‘Some things old, some things new: The spatial representations and politics of change of the peak oil relocalisation movement’. Geoforum, doi: 10.1016/geoforum.2009.08.007

*Hopkins, R. (2008) The Transition Handbook. Totnes: Green Books Ltd.

*North, P. (2009) ‘Eco-localisation as a progressive response to peak oil and climate change- A sympathetic critique’. Geoforum, doi: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2009.04.013

You will perhaps note that the terms 'relocalisation', 'localisaton' , 'intentional localisation' and 'immanent localisation' seem almost interchangeable. This is all a bit confusing. Firstly, localisation in a broad sense denotes a reverse globalisation. North favours 'localisation' whilst Bailey et al. use 'relocalisation'.  However, North also talks about 'intentional localisation' as well as 'immanent localisation'. Intentional localisation refers to the activity of purposefully developing and nurturing systems deigned to meet our needs via more local production (think LETs schemes, local food, micro energy production, make and mend). Immanent localisation refers to localised modes of production by necessity due to untenable fuel costs. The use of 'relocalisation' is perhaps noteworthy as well, as it reminds us that we have been localised in the past. 

Monday, 13 June 2011

Duppy feminism

Male feminist geographers, David Butz and Lawrence D. Berg explain their term 'duppy feminism',

"The notion of the duppy helps us to think about the malicious ghosts of masculinism in ways that resonate with our own experiences of both contesting and unwittingly reproducing masculinism and sexism within geography."* 

This is very apt for myself, as I said in a previous post, I occupy the position of being a female geographer who both likes and dislikes masculinist ways of working- depending on various factors, or, more honestly, on my mood that day. Butz and Berg venture that the term 'duppy feminists' might be a useful one for male feminist geographers to think around and through... I find myself wondering whether I could appropriate the term for myself. 

So, why duppy feminism? What has inspired them so? Well, a duppy is a particular type of malicious ghost or spirit, the word itself probably originating from West Africa.  Bob Marley supposedly had a duppy set on him, which he had to fend off, night after night. According to the book, Catch a Fire- The Life of Bob Marley by Timothy White, one night, Rita Marley stayed over and Bob's duppy threw her out of bed! Eventually though, Bob sussed the duppy out and banished it for good.... thus the song,  Duppy Conqueror. Butz and Berg don't recount the duppy story as I remember reading it, they have a more complex, clever, political and subtle explanation. They say that The Wailers' song, Duppy Conqueror refers to the ability of the Rastafarians to conquer the duppy-like ghosts of colonialism (and Babylon System), and thus transform themselves from 'sufferers' to conquerors. My hesitant mention of Babylon System of course encourages further enquiry:- where do the ideas of Babylon System and masculinist culture meet and where do they diverge? [Are Rastas fighting the same battle as feminists - or a different one?] Additionally, Brutz and Berg reckon that Marley and The Wailers saw themselves as using duppy-like tactics to go about their conquering. Thus, they existed in a ephemeral space, they conducted a guerrilla-type warfare on the oppression:- they were spectral-like, ever present, yet not fully visible fighters. To add to these interpretations,  I swear I remember something on You Tube with Lee 'Scratch' Perry explaining as to why he had to get rid of the duppies, this time the duppies were hangers on, vampiric people who followed others around, hoping to feed from their success. (If I can validate this I'll be sure to post the video).  With varying ideas of a duppy conqueror, there is confusion yet more importantly, I think, there is a richness of interpretation and a multi-layered approach possible... a lack of clarity, yet a useful bunch of possibilities. I don't see a problem with this as the feminist discourse is rather convoluted in the first place.

This whole idea of duppy feminism has grabbed me and I've been agitating around these ideas for the past while now. The goals of academic feminist analysis are to analyse and understand the patriarchal system, to actively practice resistance to patriarchy and to be transformative, particularly to women's lives. Butz and Berg reckon that most male feminist geographers succeed in undertaking a good feminists analysis, which adds to our understanding of masculinist culture. However, they observe that as a rule, male privilege is not spent (more about this later), cognitive authority is never relinquished, patriarchy is not actively resisted and nothing transformative comes about. Thus the research is another academic exercise, with little impact at ground level. Of course, female feminists are known to 'fail' in the very same manner. The reason being is that deep masculinism serves us very well in the establishment and is good for furthering careers. Deep masculinism would be characterised as a desire to penetrate the space of another, yet to defend ones own space or territory. So, a feminist who is still deeply masculinist would ask the participants many probing questions yet stop short at revealing any insights into their own life, for example. Additionally, Butz and Berg think that the majority of men do not recognise (or perhaps, do not wish to recognise) their own male privilege and are rather fond of it; again, it has served them well. If male feminists do recognise their own male privilege, this is not the end of the problem, however, since, according to Butz and Berg, one cannot rid oneself of male privilege and, even if one did decide to berate oneself for simply being male, this is not a productive mode in which to put oneself! Guilt never really seemed the best of tactics.

In their essay, they are at pains to explain how most male feminists fail to be really good feminists and as a result, Butz and Berg propose a stance which might be adopted, as a theoretical hanger on which to drape ones practical working methods. They propose that the inbuilt ghosts of patriarchy and male privilege be acknowledged, rather than denied, and that one occupies a more liminal space, an ephemeral space, where one practices feminism from a duppy-like stance. One is ever present yet not fully physical, in some way. At the same time, one has a ghost within, a bundle of contradiction which they see as the duppy. They also encourage a guerrilla-type practice.... a subversive feminism, if you will, whereby the duppy feminist will try to 'spend' some of their male privilege. They could do this by listening rather than talking, by being more receptive and less impressive, by standing slightly on the sidelines. They could also make themselves more porous and less well defended, they could, in effect, make themselves more penetrable, so that, by osmosis, their masculinist territory might be accessed by a feminist world.

I am fascinated by their ideas. I too have great 'head mash' from trying to work out just what sort (if any) of feminist I am, or I shall become. I know I have a whole load of contradictions running and that one could easily accuse me of being hypocritical- I personally tend to pick and choose just when I like and when I dislike masculinist structure and working methods. Surely that is not being a good feminist in the first place? Yet, I would be lying were I to try to deny my feminist ideals, strops and leanings. I often like things with a bit more liminality than hegemony and I have always been taken with the term, duppy, ever since I first heard it way back in 1990 or so. So yes, I am wondering whether I too might position myself as a duppy feminist...

* Butz, D. and Berg, L.D. (2002), 'Paradoxical Space: Geography, Men, and Duppy Feminism'. In Feminist Geography in Practice Research and Methods, edited by Pamela Moss, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Eco-feminist art

There are various strands to feminism:- first wave feminism, second wave, third wave, eco-feminism.... 'gender feminsist', 'equity feminists', 'resenter feminists', 'marxist feminists'... and maybe more.... whilst at the same time, academic researchers can use feminist analysis as a research methodology (this is certainly fairly popular  and acceptable within human geography). 

It's high time for a picture in this blog so I wish to include this one by Betty LaDuke, as sourced from We'Moon Diary 2011. We'Moon is most definitely, strongly, almost militantly gender/eco-feminist in view point. Personally, I love the diary for its colourful layout, poems and artwork yet I get angry  with what I perceive as the inherent sexism  of the publication - men are totally omitted.  Eco-feminism has been concerned with the apparent connection between the degradation of the planet and the domination of women. More recently, eco-feminism has come to encompass a standpoint of equality and inclusivity of all races, nationalities, sexual orientation, 'dis-ability' and classes. How this means that men should be ignored and excluded, I don't really understand but never mind, we'll speak more about that later (sorry guys- I want to join you as Duppy Feminists!) ... for now though, I want to post this beautiful picture: 

Introducing, 'Latin America: Between Sunlight and Shadow', by Betty LaDuke - a  highly colourful, flowing, holistic  image depicting women (?), all of whom are connected to earth, water, plants, animals and sky.  One of the figures has a skirt decorated with crosses which might symbolise Christianity, though I am guessing this refers to a more pagan, animated and flamboyant Latin American style Christianity,  with many fiestas and much adoration of 'Our Lady'. Is it a halo, a moon or a sun behind the figures and are we shown  ancestral spirits or tree branches growing from their heads? I see a sadness to this picture yet much beauty and soulfulness. Are these beautiful  Latin Americans betwixt light and dark to suggest  that much of their culture is oppressed or unknown to the dominant cultures?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...