Gender and Global Crises: Connecting Reproductive Labour, Ecology, and Wellbeing
This seminar includes a public lecture by Dr Sharae Deckard (University College Dublin) followed by a structured roundtable lead by Dr Sorcha Gunne (STK), Dr Treasa De Loughry (University of Exeter), Dr Amy Rushton (Nottingham Trent University) and Dr. Kate Houlden (Anglie Ruskin University).
As the battle for bodily autonomy and reproductive rights rages on, we are witnessing an intensification of what Silvia Federici has called “a true war against women.” Our current moment is marked by the enduring sexual division of labour, rape culture going unchecked, the continuing marginalization of Trans experience, increasingly gendered labour precarity, the ongoing limitations of women in the workplace, and the intensification of the battle for reproductive rights. However, the war on women is not the only crisis that is rapidly reaching critical mass. On the one hand, there is ecological catastrophe and the climate change crisis wrought by capitalism, and, on the other, there is a growing sense of a crisis in wellbeing and mental health – in particular, amongst displaced and refugee populations and, as the gig economy consolidates and legitimates precarious labour, amongst “millennials” and “gen Zers”. Throughout the world and across different economic contexts, people identifying as women are disproportionately impacted by these ecological and psychological crises.
Crises of economic labour, ecology, mental health, and reproductive rights are all consequences of the heteronormative patriarchal capitalist world-system. Therefore, to truly understand and intervene in this contemporary moment, we cannot afford to consider these crises as mutually exclusive. This seminar seeks to explore how we might consider these crises as interconnected and intertwined by examining the intersection of the sexual division of labour and reproduction, ecology, and wellbeing. We aim to put these crises in conversation to understand how addressing gendered inequality also has the potential to make constructive interventions in worsening ecological and psychological global crises.
Food-getting, Water-carrying, Waste-picking: Women’s Work and Ecology in World Literature, by Dr Sharae Deckard
Building on world-systems theorist Wilma Dunaway's observation that women's work in the realm of social reproduction, particularly in the peripheries of the capitalist world-system, draws heavily upon natural resources and is thus preponderantly affected by forms of resource depletion and environmental crisis including water scarcity, land degradation, pollution, and toxification, this paper will argue for an approach to world-literature that combines world-ecology, world-systems, and social reproduction theory. It explore different world-literary depictions of types of labour that have been gendered as "women's work", including food-getting, water-carrying, and waste-picking, in order to examine how novels imagine the terrain of social reproduction both as a zone of appropriation, violence, and crisis, and as the potential ground for organized resistance.
Dr. Sharae Deckard is a tenured permanent Lecturer in World Literature at UCD. Her research interests intersect environmental criticism and world-systems approaches to world literature, ecology, and gender. Her monograph, Paradise Discourse, Imperialism and Globalization, was published by Routledge in 2010. She is a co-author with the Warwick Research Collective (WReC) of Combined and Uneven Development: Towards a New Theory of World-Literature, a monograph published by Liverpool UP in 2015. Recently she has edited World Literature, Neoliberalism, and the Culture of Discontent (Palgrave 2019), a special issue of Irish University Review on Food, Energy, Climate: Irish Culture and World-Ecology, and Marxism, Postcolonial Theory, and the Future of Critique: Critical Engagements with Benita Parry (Routledge 2018).