Gender’s Critical Edge

Feminist political ecology, postcolonial intersectionality, and the coupling of race and gender

Authored by: Sharlene Mollett

Routledge Handbook of Gender and Environment

Print publication date:  June  2017
Online publication date:  July  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415707749
eBook ISBN: 9781315886572
Adobe ISBN:


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Feminist political ecology (FPE) is an important and influential approach to gender and environment research in the social sciences. In this chapter, I discuss how feminist political ecology and increased attention to social difference provides a useful conceptual terrain for interrogating environmental change and mainstream international development policies. While recognizing the importance of gender in feminist political ecology, and in gender and environment literature more generally, I want to problematize the privileging of gender over other forms of difference in FPE. Drawing on the insights from feminist geography and black feminist theorizing, I argue for a postcolonial intersectionality as a way to unleash the multidimensional and radical potential of gender in environmental scholarship. This chapter also serves to illuminate the way colonial practices and stereotypes remain embedded in development practice, even after colonialism. Then, I demonstrate how a postcolonial intersectional analysis can be used to understand environmental conflicts by applying it to ethnographic research conducted in Honduras. I provide a partial view of the life experiences of two similar, but different Miskito women to show how multiple forms of power and positionings shape natural resource struggles. To close, I argue that gender and race together, as a mutually constituted coupling, offer great insight to the illumination of the power dynamics embedded in natural resource contests. As such, postcolonial intersectional analyses help to advance FPE research and to procure a robust critique of modernist development thought and practice.

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