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Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies - BIGSAS

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Research Interests:

Development Sociology 

Geographical Area :

South Africa

Current Project:

The Creation of Environmental Movements with Feminist Alliances: Survival Mechanism of Rural Women

In a broader context, neoliberalism contributes to sustaining colonial practices in our contemporary capitalist world, exacerbating disparities among different classes through deepening environmental, economic, racial, and gender inequalities. In South Africa, a majority of the population lives below the poverty line in harsh conditions, grappling with unfolding climate and biodiversity crises, economic and political turbulence, and increasing corporate power (Biowatch, 2023). Food insecurity persists as a critical issue, aggravated by the escalating impacts of climate crises, affecting society’s access to healthy and sustainable food and water. Despite the introduction of commercial seeds to enhance food security and agricultural productivity through the Green Revolution (Frankema, 2014), South African farmers have yet to benefit from this agrarian transformation. Instead, the Green Revolution perpetuated a history of racialized state-making (Adalet, 2022), displacing smallholder peasants from their lands and leading to the extinction of most traditional seeds. Similar outcomes have been witnessed in other global South countries, including the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia (Adalet, 2022), sparking prolonged struggles over land distribution and usage in South Africa. In the realm of peasant movements and the intersection of women and peasantry, La Via Campesina (LVC) emerges as a crucial transnational agrarian movement incorporating elements of food, environmental, and climate justice politics (Borras, 2023). LVC's emergence has contributed to the revalorization of agrarian politics, transforming agrarian and knowledge politics and co-constructing the field of Critical Agrarian Studies. Through international conferences on gender and women’s assemblies, LVC expanded the definition of gender, emphasizing intersectional differences constructed by class, sexuality, ethnicity, age, and other structural axes of oppression (Calvario & Desmarais, 2023). Thus, LVC constitutes a transnational space to discuss gender issues of peasant women in agrarian studies. LVC’s focus on inequalities, power relations, collective rights, and the re-commodification of resources is embedded in food sovereignty beyond the confines of feminism based on a neoliberal framework. Food sovereignty, linked to gender justice, aims for a more equal redistribution of economic resources and wealth between men and women, recognizing women’s rights and their participation in decision-making processes (Calvario & Desmarais, 2023). Calvario and Desmarais (2023) argue that LVC’s feminist politics has revolutionary potential for itself and food sovereignty, pushing feminist agendas to include rural and peasant women’s concerns, ideas, and struggles. However, further research is needed to understand how LVC’s approaches to gender, as a transnational agrarian movement, are received locally and how debates on gender and feminism contribute to expanding notions of gender equality, influencing rural and feminist politics worldwide. Considering peasant and rural women in the Kwazulu-Natal region of South Africa, I contemplate how they can carve out more space to transform their daily lives and gendered roles amidst the challenges of food insecurity, poverty, and climate and environmental injustices. This transformation could occur through alliances with civil society organizations and participation in agroecology and food sovereignty events, along with the establishment of broader networks within and beyond South Africa​


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