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Academic Writing, Winter term 2006
Sanja Kolaric
CEU Gender Studies
MA Draft Thesis Statement
Title: Ecofeminism and everyday life
This thesis will be an investigation of everyday life in an ecofeminist community in Italy.
Ecofeminism has been widely elaborated as being a synthesis of feminist and
environmental theory. The Oxford English Dictionary in defining ecofeminism brings
together “connections between the repudiation of the body and the despoliation of the
earth” and mentions the idea that “women incline toward a benign, harmonious
relationship with nature”. It can be looked at in a broader way, since ecofeminist theory
usually entails a holistic approach of an individual toward the outside world, and is
therefore deeply interconnected with both spirituality and sexuality. Only a few authors
make explicit this connection between sexuality and spirituality in the context of
ecofeminism. For example Mies and Shiva say that “spirituality is largely identical to
women’s sensuality, their sexual energy, their most precious life force, which links them
to each other, to other life forms and the elements…. This sensual and sexual spirituality
rather then ‘other-worldly’ is centered on and thus abolishes the opposition between spirit
and matter, transcendence and immanence” (1993, 17).
My approach to this topic is emphasis of the link of ecofeminism with spirituality and
sexuality. Although they are opposed to each other in monotheistic religions, I expect
them to be crucial elements of an ecofeminist worldview, since both environmental and
feminist consciousnesses oblige on alternative to dominant power-based relationships,
and therefore imply appropriated values and lifestyles different from dominant ones, with
spirituality and sexuality as inextricable domains in every individual’s life and identity.
Within itself, ecofeminism is not a monolithic movement, and there are some differences
in individual approaches to it, but in my thesis I will focus on the existing ideology in
Damanhur as a consensual ideology of a group of people (around 800 women, men and
children).
The initial aim of this thesis is to present how ecofeminist practice is acted out in everyday
life. My thesis will have a theoretical and a practical part. Since there are many complex
phenomena intertwining in the ecofeminist movement, the theoretical part will clarify
where and why are their approximate boundaries and where they overlapp. I will first
elaborate concepts of ecofeminism, spirituality and sexuality, and then show how they are
overlapping. I will argue that, in some sense, it is not possible to even imagine one without
the other. Theoretical framework which I will be using is the literature which connects
feminist and environmental ideology, then feminism and sexuality, and feminism and
spirituality.
Secondly, in the practical part, I will conduct fieldwork research as participant observation in
the Federation of Damanhur, an ecofeminist community in the north of Italy, and make semi
open-structured interviews with the representatives/ spokespersons of the community. Since
it founding, members of Damanhur have dedicated themselves to creating an eco-compatible
life model, since it is their belief that our planet is a living being which needs to be respected
and maintained. Specific research questions and, in the same time, questions which I will be
asking in the interviews are: are there any discrepancies between their ideology and everyday
practice? If so, what is the member’s method of dealing with them? Do they ignore it or
rationalize them? Were there certain changes recently in ideology to better accommodate
everyday practice? Is there any particular type of problem concerning ecofeminist practice?
Is there something that has been left unaccomplished concerning complete implementation of
ecofeminist worldview? What aspects of this lifestyle are only possible in this community,
and what can be implemented outside it? Is the hierarchy in the community based on sex
/gender? Since monogamy is not obligated and it is put on individual’s choice with how
many people (both sexes/ genders included!) and on how long period will be in provisional
marriages, does that include separation of emotions and sexuality? If not, what is accepted
way of dealing with jealousy? Is the participation in certain spiritual rituals obligated for all
members, meaning that there is one uniform religiosity?
These questions shed light on my overall topic in the sense that they are pointing out with what
practical and conceptual difficulties one must cope in order to practically live everyday
ecofeminism and its indications for spiritual and sexual life. Finally, since I will be observing
how members of a certain community incorporate many alternative values in their worldview
and their daily life, I expect to find some discrepancies in consistently maintaining ecofeminist
ideology. Since majority of Damanhurians are raised outside this community, I expect to find
discrepancy between member’s personal ambitions and community’s ideology.
Additionally, there is not any analysis dealing with application those phenomena and their
interconnectivity in everyday life. So, actually, I am addressing a topic no one else has
researched, which is also one of the limitations since I can not compare my findings with the
others. Another limitation concerning my theses is the timeframe, which does not allow a deep
and thorough analysis which this topic definitely deserves. If I find that my analyzed model is
efficient, the importance of undertaking this project is huge from the point of view of
sustainable development, a crucial condition for future society.
PRELIMINARY BIBLIOGRAPHY:
∙ Official web-site of the Federation of Damanhur. http://www.damanhur.info/.
Last accessed on 21 January 2006.
∙ Robinson, B.A. “The Federation of Damanhur, a Spiritual Community in N.
Italy”http://www.religioustolerance.org/damanhur.htm Last accessed on 21 January 2006.
∙ Basu, Kajal. “Time Travelers”. Life Positive, July 1996. Last accessed on 21
January 2006. http://www.lifepositive.com/mind/evolution/time-travel/damanhur.asp
Adams, Carol J., ed. Ecofeminism and the sacred. New York: Continuum, 1993
Behar, Ruth and Deborah A. Gordon, eds. Women writing culture. Berkeley: University
of California Press, c1995
Bell, Diane, Pat Caplan, and Wazir Jahan Karim, eds. Gendered fields: women, men, and
ethnography. London : Routledge, 1993
Brandt, Barbara Whole life economics : revaluing daily life. Philadelphia, PA : New
Society Publishers, c1995
Cunningham, Mark W. The plausibility of ecofeminism in the 21st century. Budapest:
CEU, Budapest College, 2001(MA thesis)
Christ, Carol P. and Judith Plaskow, eds. Womanspirit rising: a feminist reader in
religion. San Francisco: Harper, 1992
Daly, Mary. Gyn/ecology: the metaethics of radical feminism. Boston: Beacon Press,
1990
di Leonardo, Micaela, ed. Gender at the crossroads of knowledge: feminist anthropology
in the postmodern era. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1991
Estés, Clarissa Pinkola. Women who run with the wolves: myths and stories of the wild
woman archetype. London : Rider, c1999
Gaard, Greta, ed. Ecofeminism: women, animals, nature. Philadelphia: Temple
University Press, 1993
Jackson, Stevi and Sue Scott, eds. Feminism and sexuality: a reader. New York:
Columbia University Press, c1996
Janson, Deborah. “Grassroots ecofeminism: activating Utopia” In Ecofeminist literary
criticism: theory, interpretation, pedagogy, edited by Greta Gaard and Patrick D.
Murphy. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, c1998
Mies, Maria and Vandana Shiva, eds. Ecofeminism. London: Zed Books, c1993
Starhawk. The spiral dance: a rebirth of the ancient religion of the Great Goddess. San
Francisco: Harper, c1999
Strong, Jr, D.R. and others, ed. Ecological communities: conceptual issues and the
evidence. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, c1984
Sturgeon, Noël. Ecofeminist natures : race, gender, feminist theory, and political action.
New York: Routledge, 1997
Turpin, Jennifer and Lois Ann Lorentzen (eds.). The gendered new world order:
militarism, development, and the environment. New York: Routledge, 1996
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