EGENIS seminar: "Environmental health and the protection of P. oceanica; developing an intersectional approach for more-than-human categorization", Dr Jose Canada (University of Exeter)

Egenis seminar series

An Egenis, the Centre for the Study of Life Sciences seminar
Date31 January 2022
Time15:30 to 17:00
PlaceOnline event.

In this presentation, I discuss work in progress that follows the scientific, social and political dynamics of destruction and protection of Posidonia Oceanica, a recently protected seagrass endemic to the Mediterranean that plays a key role in the landscapes of Mallorca (the biggest of the Balearic Islands) and its ecologies.

My work starts from sociohistorical dynamics of exploitation of natural environments in Mallorca by capitalistic practices of mass tourism that have had an impact on the destruction of local ecologies that are key for the sustainability of the same environments that make tourism possible. In these sociohistories, economic and political systems that enact North-South, Centre-Periphery  and class divisions have shaped Mallorca into a “pleasure periphery” (Moyà 2015), that has historically been exploited by the Spanish central government (especially during the dictatorship, 1939-1975), international tour operators and hospitality businesses, and wealthier classes inside and outside the island (to mention a few key actors) as a resource for economic growth and leisure. This has set in motion an environmentally destructive tourism industry that has seriously damaged local ecologies, one of which has P. Oceanica as one of its central elements. More recent attempts to protect rather than destroy local ecosystems are leading to the emergence of health categorizations that describe different environments as threatened, worthy of protection or, sometimes, beyond salvation. These emergent technoscientific and political categorizations intersect with classical sociological categories to produce futures where those abused landscapes in the ruins of capitalism can or cannot thrive, sharing their fate with the human and nonhuman animal populations that depend on them.

To make sense of how well-established sociological divisions like North-South, Centre-Periphery or class intersect with categories emerging from recent efforts to protect P. Oceanica, I rely on notions of intersectional inequality and discrimination as a way to better understand more-than-human health and environmental sustainability. Intersectionality is a concept rooted in a long tradition of work by feminists of colour that highlights how different systems of oppression and the categorizations that they impose (e.g. race, gender, class, socioeconomic background, or age) produce specific experiences of marginalization. More recently, intersectionality has become a diversified approach that feeds into critical social theory (Collins 2019), having been applied in multispecies contexts, like companion species relationships and speciciesm (Weaver 2021; Ahuja 2021), climate change (Kaijser and Kronsell 2014)or vector-borne diseases (Ahuja 2015). In my work I develop those more-than-human readings of intersectionality by formulating more-than-human intersectionality as a mode of hybrid categorization that works in two directions. First, it helps to conceptualise how traditionally sociological categories like class or socioeconomic background come to have an impact on nonhuman actors. Second, as a way to pay attention to the emergent categories that result from more-than-human encounters in knowledge production. Also, I reconceptualize notions like ‘experience of oppression’ into ‘events of oppression’ as a way to include nonhuman others into intersectional processes of categorization and understand the sociomaterial impact that oppression has one them. This theoretical project has the objective of building a frame to understand how dynamics of inequality in contexts where sustainability and coexistence in more-than-human ecologies is threatened.

References:

Ahuja, Neel. 2015. ‘Intimate Atmospheres: Queer Theory in a Time of Extinctions’. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 21 (2–3): 365–85. https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-2843227.

———. 2021. ‘The Analogy of Race and Species in Animal Studies’. Prism 18 (1): 244–55. https://doi.org/10.1215/25783491-8922265.

Collins, Patricia Hill. 2019. Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory. Durham & London: Duke University Press.

Kaijser, Anna, and Annica Kronsell. 2014. ‘Climate Change through the Lens of Intersectionality’. Environmental Politics 23 (3): 417–33. https://doi.org/10.1080/09644016.2013.835203.

Moyà, Eduard. 2015. ‘Palma: The Oscillating Core of a Suspended Periphery. An Imagologic Approach to an Island City and Its Discourse of Pleasure’. Journal of Marine and Island Cultures 4 (1): 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.imic.2015.06.001.

Weaver, Harlan. 2021. Bad Dog: Pit Bull Politics and Multispecies Justice. Feminist Technosciences. Seattle: University of Whashington Press.

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