This chapter aims to rethink how gender inequality is related to interpersonal and structural asymmetries of power displayed in our relationships with ecosystems, questioning the classical concept of ‘nature’ as something ‘out there’, as pointed out by dark ecology. First, with the aim of offering a joint North–South critical perspective on equality and sustainability, critical ecofeminism, through the work of A. Puleo, will be explained as a Spanish feminist line of thought and movement. This author, rejecting some essentialist visions of deep ecology, sets her ideas in relation to general critical social theory. Second, contrasting perspectives (critical feminism and ecology) will be combined to offer a rich cross-fertilisation between different perspectives and traditional themes in criminology. A common denominator can be found in the exercise of criticism through questioning binary categories, underlying assumptions and social injustice in relation to the visibility of harms. Third, the relevance of ecofeminism for current criminological debates will be highlighted beyond the obvious connections with green victimology. Finally, ecofeminism will be interpreted as a new critical standpoint and as a more inclusive language for fostering the criminological and victimological imagination in order to help to rethink the rules of the criminal justice system.
Varona, G. (2020), "The Contribution of Critical Ecofeminism to the Criminological Debate in Spain: Debating All Rules of All Tribes", Walklate, S., Fitz-Gibbon, K., Maher, J. and McCulloch, J. (Ed.) The Emerald Handbook of Feminism, Criminology and Social Change (Emerald Studies in Criminology, Feminism and Social Change), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 119-136. https://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-78769-955-720201012Download as .RIS
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In April 2019, it was announced in the Spanish news that a Barcelona public library, had decided that all volumes of Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, together with other tales, should be removed because they were considered examples of machismo. Many feminist experts in literature did not agree with this decision and considered it short-sighted, patronising and authoritarian. Some of them pointed out a broader interpretation of this tale, where a woman’s presence (and sexuality) emerges in relation to social control linked to society and nature, this last represented by the forest and the wolf (Catelli, 2019).
Apart from being a sign of the relevance of and disputes around contemporary feminism in Spain (Caballé, 2018), this anecdote serves to introduce the topic of this chapter – the relationship between gender and ecosystems. Both as categories and spaces of domination these can be observed from the perspective of criminology to discover points of encounter in the deconstruction of the given order and in the vision of possibilities for social change. Neither gender equality nor respect for the intrinsic value of ecosystems, including animals, has been part of the dominant social order debate until recent times. Neither claim has been realised after centuries of activism and an ongoing discussion. However, the pathway from the term ‘sex’ to ‘gender’, to signify the role of cultural and social structures, could be compared to that of the terms ‘nature’ and ‘the environment’ to ‘ecosystems’ and the like, in order to avoid an androcentric and anthropocentric standpoint of constructed reality.
Despite a certain parallelism in their logic for questioning patterns of domination, it is still not clear how gender and ecology relate to each other, particularly in the arena of the criminal justice system. In order to contribute to clarifying the relationship, this chapter aims to rethink what gender inequality has to do with interpersonal and structural asymmetries of power displayed in our relationships with ecosystems, questioning the classical concept of nature as something ‘out there’ (Morton, 2016). More specifically, the chapter endeavours to present essential aspects of critical ecofeminism, particularly in Spain, placing it in context with critical and green criminology. Combining contrasting perspectives (critical feminism and ecology) offers a rich cross-fertilisation between different lines of thought and traditional themes in criminology. As will be explained later, a common denominator can be found in the exercise of criticism by questioning underlying assumptions and social injustices in relation to the visibility of harms. By supporting a critical mainstreaming, some insights into invisible or discarded individual, collective and social harms can be found (Hawkins, 2019). From different departure points, towards complementary perspectives, some convergences emerge. Furthermore, by recomposing the frameworks of feminism and criminology into their ecological elements, they can be restructured in a different way so that they illuminate different aspects of feminism and criminology.
More than merely an individual identity, feminism can be conceived as a collective political project to transform structures and subjectivities (Walby, 2011). Feminism has shown how women are subordinated in all societies and how patterns of discrimination persist in access to resources and in the acknowledgment of different populations and individuals as human beings (Cameron, 2019; Baker, 1995; Ling, 2014). The perspective of ecofeminism has made visible the gender, class and geographical inequality in the use of natural resources and in the impact of environmental harm (as stated in the Women’s Action Agenda 21 of the United Nations from 1991; Women’s Environment & Development Organization, WEDO, 1992; Shiva et al., 2019; Lynch, 2018; Braga de Melo Fadigas, 2014; Sollund, 2013; Nussbaum, 2001). Ecofeminist’s thought seems to have accomplished the claim for visibility without renouncing the notion of intersectionality in relation to the roles of women’s class, country of origin and race in considering women’s inequality (Arruzza et al., 2019; Davis, 2019).
When the term ‘ecofeminist’ first appeared, inspired by anarchist, socialist and anticolonialist perspectives (De Souza, 2018), it was not taken seriously either in academia or among activists. The term was coined by Françoise d’Eaubonne (1994) in a 1974 article on the need for a limitation on demographic growth in relation to women’s liberty. Besides the term ‘ecofeminism’, alternative terms have been proposed including ecological feminism, feminist environmentalism, feminist ecology, gyn/ecology, critical ecological feminism, critical feminist ecosocialism, gender and the environment, ecowomanism, queer ecologies and global feminist environmental justice (Daly, 1978; Gaard, 1997, 2007, 2011; Estévez-Sáa and Lorenzo-Modia, 2018).
Since the 1980s, different trends of ecofeminism have aligned either with feminism or with deep ecology (Mathews, 2018; Cheney, 1987). In practice, this meant giving more emphasis to gender equality or to environmental concerns, respectively. Diverse trends of ecofeminism related to deep ecology (Fox, 1989; Slicer, 1995; Mathews, 2018) have been the subject of critiques because of some of the authors’ standpoints on the relationship of women to nature and maternity, which claim that their bodily experiences connect them (better than men) with the earth. This sort of dualism between men and women linked to a sort of biological determinism had already been criticised by Simone de Beauvoir (1949) as a discourse that legitimises patriarchy in many cultures (Puleo, 2018). Such a discourse has been an instrument of exclusion in that it reduces the role of women to mothers and creates an oppressive (and effective) form of social control in terms of assumed tasks, responsibilities and blame assignation in society, families and subjectivities. Moreover, linking nature to women’s bodies precludes their own decisions through a sort of radical technophobia. Besides, for some scholars, the question is to undo the concept of gender itself beyond the heterosexual or binary norm of gender identity (Butler, 2004; Preciado, 2017). More radical criticism of the ‘mother earth’ vision has been recently raised by xenofeminism (Hester, 2018) in its three orientations: technomaterialist, antinaturalist and gender abolitionist (Preciado, 2017), with the aim of creating a more contextualised and inclusive transformative feminist practice.
In any case, today’s most critical ecofeminism emphasises going beyond a dualistic debate by deconstructing the traditional opposition of binary axes: culture/nature, men/women, human/nonhuman, reason/emotion and theory/practice (Estévez-Saá and Lorenzo-Modia, 2018). It also points out that rejecting liberal individualism is not parallel to rejecting all liberal institutions. Moreover, some scholars stress that nature cannot be known apart from culture and subjectivity or identity (Sandilands, 1997). In addition, the perspective of dark ecology represented by Timothy Morton (2016) questions the idea of nature itself, as will be explained below.
The previous set of very diverse ideas will be deepened and structured as follows. In the first section, critical ecofeminism as a line of thought in Spain will be defined. Part of the ecofeminism movement aims at offering a joint North–South critical perspective on equality and sustainability (Mies and Shiva, 1993). In this line of thought, increasing attention is being paid to the academic work of philosophy professor Alicia H. Puleo (2018, 2015, 2019). Born in Argentina, she currently works as a professor of moral and political philosophy at the University of Valladolid (Spain). She has moved from essentialist ecofeminism to propose critical ecofeminism as an environmental ethic beyond the polarisation of essentialist identities, questioning dualistic categories such as gender, race, class, sexual orientation, etc. Her critique also touches on the idealistic notion of maternity and its supposed ethics of care. Despite the lack of criminology in Puleo’s work, her writings can be read in line with other critical feminist criminologists in Spain, as well as a global emerging green criminology.
In addition, critical ecofeminism, even with limitations, can enlarge the criminological vision of topics and perspectives beyond green criminology, as will be explained in the second section of this chapter. In the third section, critical ecofeminism will be interpreted as a new critical standpoint and a new visionary language that fosters the criminological and victimological imagination. This can help us to rethink the rules of the criminal justice system. By talking of a visionary language here, a connection can be made with the need for a criminological and victimological imagination beyond the managerialist trend in today’s actuarial criminal justice, which is unable to see, measure and control some crucial ‘hyperobjects’ (Morton, 2016), such as some entities and ecosystems, as will be clarified below. Finally, by concentrating some parts of this chapter on Spain, the peripheral contribution of Spanish critical ecofeminism is taken into account beyond the dominant Anglo-Saxon gender studies in criminology, in order to question epistemic domination as well (Prando, 2019).
Ecofeminism in Spain and its Critical Theoretical Nexus to Green Criminology and Victimology
Feminist Activism in Spain
Despite a long established women’s activist movement (Camps, 1998; Amorós, 2000; Valcárcel, 2013; Caballé, 2018), feminism has entered the political arena in Spain relatively recently, in part due to the heritage of the Civil War and Francoism (Varona and Martínez, 2016). Despite this, feminisms political influence is strong today. This can be seen especially in relation to claims for wage equality or against gender violence. However, the weight of feminism is not that noticeable in ecology, in comparison to other countries, while animal rights are becoming more popular in Spain. The latter can be observed in the increasing public demands for the use of criminal law to prevent cruelty against animals, as well as in the administrative prohibition of bullfighting in cities like Barcelona.
In recent years, the evolving social context of Spanish feminism has been marked by massive strikes and demonstrations on International Women’s Day in 2018 and 2019, and strong activism against sexual attacks, with concrete demands for a gender perspective in the criminal justice system and particularly the education of judges and other professionals regarding the concepts of violence and consent. Simultaneously, the rise of an extreme-right party (VOX), which questions the notion of gender, has provoked a joint public defence of feminism by many political parties and activists (Pérez Oliva, 2019).
Ecology and Spanish Politics
In general, even if in the Spanish general elections of 2019 (Estefanía, 2019) some political parties stressed the challenge of climate change, their political programmes, campaigns and debates do not reflect the increasing degradation of ecosystems in Spain and globally. A historical political activist, Joaquín Araújo (2018: 93), said,
[…] we keep living in a world where we have to breath, drink and eat. We need something that does not need us at all. The most obvious thing might be the most incomprehensible one.
This might be particularly true for politics. Nevertheless, according to Araújo, within the environmentalist movement, women’s equality informs all ecological projects.
In 2019, demonstrations by students against climate change, globally initiated by the young Swedish woman Greta Thunberg, have also taken place in Spain (Planelles, 2019: 20). Despite the great participation of women in this social movement of young people, the question of ecofeminism has not been widely discussed.
In different countries, current intellectual and political trends show us the instrumentalisation of the ecology for some private interests (see Arias-Arbeláeiz, 2019). On the one hand, the ecological neoliberalism trend promises to manage the ecological crisis with technical utopias facilitated through the market. On the other, an ecological nihilism or catastrophism can be perceived among the population as inverted totalitarianism (Wolin, 2009). These two trends produce a certain demobilisation and depoliticisation around the cause of ecology.
However, because being ecological is trendy nowadays, it is a way of searching for not only social but also political legitimisation. In relation to this, a third political trend can be identified: false environmentalism. With precedents, like the Nazi regime, nowadays this occurs in the form of ecofascism (Biehl and Staudenmaier, 1995), which emerges when right-wing parties in Europe treat migrants as invading organisms disturbing the ecological balance of societies and use ecological arguments in relation to a variety of topics, including the building of European walls and the total prohibition of euthanasia and abortion. Some might think that this line of argument is too simple to be believed, but it is a real one, and it is being used as part of right-wing political parties’ discourse and agenda. Facing these three trends, the concrete contribution of critical ecofeminism can assist to demystify their assumptions and explain their social and ecological consequences.
Ecofeminism in Spain
In Spain, as mentioned in the introduction, Puleo, one of the main representatives of critical ecofeminism, started working on ecofeminism from the standpoint of philosophy and political ethics in the 1990s. Although marginal at first, social interest in ecofeminism is gaining momentum in Spain. Critical ecofeminism aims to be a feminist reflection, neither technophobic nor technocratic, on human relations, with nature correcting the bias caused by the extreme anthropocentrism and pseudouniversalist androcentrism of Enlightenment discourse (Puleo, 2018). Puleo (2019: 433) defines her vision as ‘moderate anthropocentric ethics promoting an empathetic attitude and compassion without rejecting the language of rights’ in a global context in need of not only redistributive justice and acknowledgment of minorities but also ecologically sustainable justice. In more general terms, another Spanish philosopher has discussed the need for a dialogue between what has already been lived and ‘the liveable’ from the perspective of a new radical Enlightenment (Garcés, 2017).
Yayo Herrero (2019), a Spanish professor in Madrid, should also be mentioned as another woman advocating ecofeminism. For her, ecofeminism has to make visible that capitalism is ecocider, patriarchal, racist and unjust. She defines ecofeminism as a line of thought and a social movement.
Spanish Ecofeminism and its Connection to Green Criminology and Victimology through Critical Theory
In principle, ecofeminism observes the relationship between the domination of women and the domination of nature, particularly in the Western world (Archambault, 1993), reflecting on everyday experiences and aiming at social transformation and justice that considers individual and collective well-being. These aims can be related to criminology at large (Lane, 1998) as well as to green criminology (Nurse, 2017) and green victimology specifically, developed in the 1990s to address environmental crimes and harms (Williams, 1996; Hall and Varona, 2018). Critical ecofeminism adopts a double focus that is both spatial (centred in ecosystems) and temporal (centred in the rhythms of the earth, different from human logic). This focus can also be observed in green criminology when it uses the notions of intergenerational harm and the anthropocene.
Critical ecofeminism, green criminology and green victimology revolve around political ecology. However, academic resources about the influence of ecofeminism on criminal justice are scarce, both globally and in Spain. One reason for this might be their lack of connection beyond the traditional topics of green criminology. Throughout this section, those thematic links will be explained, in order to be enlarged in the next section using a broader ecofeminist lens on different aspects of the criminal justice system.
One initial question should be about the possibilities of an encounter between criminology, defined as a branch of social science, and ecofeminism, defined earlier as a line of thought and a social movement. Because of the multiplicity of victimological and ecofeminist perspectives, their common ground will be discussed from a critical standpoint so that criminology and ecofeminism can benefit from a deeper dialogue on common concerns or related perspectives around complex issues.
Ben Agger (2006) argues that critical social theory is based on the following seven foundations:
This social theory criticises positivism and the assumption that theory is value free. For both ecofeminism and green criminology the main values driving social order and change are anthropocentric and androcentric.
It envisions a better future with less domination and exploitation. Because of the historical subordination of women and nonhumans, this is a clear element for ecofeminism and green criminology.
It conceives domination as a structural phenomenon. Beyond individualism, ecofeminism and green criminology study issues of social and structural accountability.
It shows the need for awareness about this domination. As mentioned before, gender and ecology claims are not self-evident and activism is needed.
Beyond abstractions, critical social theory questions everyday experiences in society. This brings together the activist and the academic enterprise of ecofeminism and green criminology.
It thinks about structure and agency as dialectical. The interconnection among the structure, the cultural, the social and the subjective appears again in both movements.
It sees emancipation as a participatory bottom-up process. Instead of patronising, ecofeminists and green criminologists seem to aim to make harms and social injustice visible in the own voice of those oppressed.
Considering the foundations of critical theory in this field as explained by Agger (2006) some relevant questions might be asked in ecofeminist and criminological terms, such as: Who is in control of the dominant social order in relation to the categories of gender and ecology? Who is the owner of the main ecological, material, cultural and political resources? How are decisions being taken, and with what harmful effects against whom? What is not being taken into account? A political economy on the divergent possibilities of being considered as a living subject and having influence in the world emerges in a network of power relationships, where inherent contradictions can be highlighted by critical social theory represented by ecofeminism and green criminology.
Specifically, Puleo’s ecofeminist proposal ‘encompasses both classical theories and more recent deconstructivist approaches in service of an alternative environmental ethics’ (Estévez-Saá and Lorenzo-Modia, 2018: 132). Ecofeminism acknowledges, among other things, women’s equality and autonomy and the universalisation of the ethics of care towards humans, nature and nonhuman animals, the assumption of an intercultural dialogue and the affirmation of unity and continuity with nature. Clearly, most of these topics are present in much green criminology scholarship, where nature, ecology and nonhumans are considered political concepts.
According to Puleo (2018), the feminist critique can contribute to an ecological culture of equality by questioning the socially controlled bodies of women in search of freedom from oppression and exploitation, exercised through different forms of patriarchy. Puleo (2018: 21–22) prefers using the term ‘nature’ instead of ‘environment’ because it is less anthropocentric and reflects a more real complexity, interconnection and continuity. Ecofeminism allows not only for identifying the logic of dominance when reason and emotion are disconnected but also for thinking in political terms about what seems natural in society. This hermeneutics of suspicion comes from feminism in respect to culturally accepted categories that provoke and legitimise discrimination. However, precisely because of suspicion towards essentialist ecological standpoints, it continues to be unclear for some feminists whether all perspectives on nature and nonhumans are gendered, and whether ecofeminism could result in a ‘ruinous alliance’, in Celia Amorós’s words (Puleo, 2018: 19).
As mentioned in other works (Varona, 2019a), perhaps that alliance makes more sense if extended to green victimology. Rooted in green criminology, green victimology achieved great interest in the 2000s with its study of victimisation derived ‘from environmentally destructive activities or omissions’ (Hall, 2017: 2) that cause mass victimisation with accumulated effects on human and nonhuman victims. Green victimology implies criticism of the role of the state and its alliances with big corporations. Moreover, the notion of social and ecological harms, instead of crimes or suffering, includes a more dynamic, collective and non-anthropocentric perspective, stressing the diversity of the psychological, material, economic and cultural impacts of harm on different beings and entities. Thus, beyond the limited legal criteria, it allows thinking in ecological or ecojustice terms – or even interspecies justice – but also with a different temporal dimension (Hartog, 2015), critical of presentism.
The perspective of green victimology is also connected to cultural victimology (Hall, 2017), that is, the cultural understanding of victimhood and of the processes of victimisation and reparation. This includes how environmental harm and its victims are conceived, constructed and reproduced in the media and in the cultural climate, considering the lessons of zemiology (Brisman and South, 2018). The cultural climate helps to discard environmental victims, either because their suffering or the impact on them is not recognised as such, or because it is justified or not seen as unjust. Those victims are portrayed in society as commodities or instruments of the political contest over space and resources, where the use of scientific criteria seems central, ignoring other tenets of knowledge (Varona, 2019a).
The Relevance of Critical Ecofeminism for the Current Criminological and Victimological Debates
Concrete Fields of Interest
Savic (2018) explains that, as the victims of ecologically harmful behaviours mostly appear to be women, nature or ecosystems, animals and groups affected by conditions of vulnerability, ecofeminism serves as a fundamental theory to make visible the androcentric context of their victimisation. As the personal is political, the ecological is political too. Therefore, as already highlighted in the previous section, topics on the ecofeminist agenda also pertain to the domain of criminal policies and victim policies. However, in this section, beyond harms like pollution, climate change, cruelty towards animals and the decrease of biodiversity, it is contended that critical ecofeminism can add a new perspective to questioning, amplifying and responding to classical criminological and victimological concerns.
Even though ecofeminism cannot be confined to criminology, because its concerns go beyond the criminal justice system and social control, by using critical ecofeminism as the central focus in this chapter, key concepts and concerns of criminology and victimology in relation to order and social change can be identified. As mentioned earlier, perhaps the most influential and sophisticated contribution of critical ecofeminism has to do with its vision of transcending dualism. Its related notion of continuity could accommodate and introduce eclectic views and direct the criminological gaze to unseen factors as a counterpoint to traditional ones. Critical ecofeminism could accentuate and give prominence to other logics about how humans think and how they relate to other entities.
Moreover, ecofeminism aims at the deconstruction of traditional dichotomies that perpetuate hierarchies and envisioning connections beyond the traditional concept of identity, a key category in all criminological theories about interpersonal and collective violence, as well as desistance from crime. As Estévez-Saá and Lorenzo-Modia (2018: 129) contend:
[…] most ecofeminists now seem to favour the formulation of a relational self that, although not strictly speaking subscribing to the radical holistic view of a deep ecologist, would certainly deconstruct hierarchical binarisms and favour the idea of a self-in-relationship.
As non-exhaustive examples, the following fields of interest in criminal law can be listed and reinterpreted with a critical ecofeminist vision. As for possible crimes or harms, crimes against the environment and animals are the obvious ones for ecofeminist consideration. As already mentioned, the decriminalisation of abortion and euthanasia have been viewed through an ecofeminist lens. This lens does not necessarily have to be conservative or technophobic. However, more public attention has been paid to these strains of ecofeminism. Here the Feminist International Network of Resistance to Reproductive and Genetic Engineering network’s opposition to the decriminalisation of euthanasia in Australia, as well as the critical comments of one of its representatives, Maria Mies, in relation to the right to abortion (Puleo, 2018: 418), should be recalled. These viewpoints have been rejected by critical ecofeminism and most feminist activists.
Ecofeminism can also include the analysis of some women as perpetrators or harm producers by questioning the notion of the ethics of care and by being aware of the embedded power relationships in its everyday practice in society. Doubting the vision of women as mainly pure victims, in relation to the concept of the ideal victim, is an emancipatory task. It could help to combat an essentialist, antagonist and pathological view of women. Viewing women as ‘pure victims’ promotes punitivism and invisibility of the real dynamics of victimisation of men, women and nonhumans, where overlapping roles might also exist. Moreover, the notion of care has to be contextualised within its historical and social process, stakeholders and purposes. Care is not inherently good and cannot be extended in a universal way. In addition, it might not be always emancipatory in social and political life to expand the concept of care that is considered to be related to women’s biological role in reproduction (Archambault, 1993).
Critical ecofeminism also question discriminatory practices and bias in the criminal justice system, as well as the hierarchisation of beings and the domination of otherness. In the realm of criminology, this concerns ‘victimigration/crimigration’ issues in relation to the right to asylum, the so-called refugee crisis, the crimes of trafficking of persons and smuggling and in connection to environmental harms, climate change and ecocide (Guerra Palmero, 2017). According to the United Nations, climate change is the foremost cause of migration in the world. Moreover, 80% of people displaced because of migrant women (Jolly and Ahmad, 2019; Wonders, 2018).
Likewise, there is a link between sexual and labour exploitation of women and environmental harm. This environmental harm can also be connected to growing demographic concentration and Lefebvre’s (1996) idea of ‘right to the city’, as well as evictions, lack of adequate housing and lack of access to sustainable energy (Herrero, 2019). Some of these problems are denounced from an ecofeminist perspective as the ultimate expressions of extreme capitalism.
Ecofeminism can be a framework for rethinking traditional crimes such as drug-related crimes and the use of farmlands for legal and illegal markets. Apart from this, another example of the potential contribution of critical ecofeminism to modern criminology can be found in the arena of cybercrime. Here the notions of environment or ecology can help to demystify the radical separation between online and offline crimes, particularly with insights coming from victims’ experiences.
Beyond criminalisation, ecofeminist’s thought can also contribute to envisioning new ways of reparation. If some harms impact women disproportionately, particularly in certain impoverished countries and communities, it makes sense to look for a more responsive law, including some forms of restorative justice (Hall and Varona, 2018). Nonetheless, the challenge of the role of autonomy, empathy and compassion towards other beings remains.
Finally, critical feminism does not stop at mere critique; it also aims to propose social change. Ecofeminism questions the understanding of certain social practices, from economic growth to incarceration. From this view, social education on the limits of criminal justice and its danger to equality can be incorporated into an awareness strategy combining facts and emotion to rethink punitiveness and restoration in relation to emancipation (Puleo, 2018; Larrauri, 1994).
An Enlarged Critical Perspective to Consider Classical Questions
Finally, the contribution of critical ecofeminism to the current criminological debate (Varona, 2019b), in Spain and elsewhere, means questioning premises, rephrasing and trying to answer classical questions like the following (Einstadter and Henry, 1995):
How are humans and nonhumans conceived of in terms of liberty, responsibility and equality?
How are decisions being made about social and cultural change? Who and what counts in those decisions?
How is harm to nonhumans thought of? Is criminal law interdependent on other normative and even ecological systems?
Can the conditions favouring or inhibiting criminality and victimisation be measured and controlled? Is there a causal logic?
Is the institutional and procedural framework responding to this sort of harm and victimisation adequate?
In relation to these five questions, ecofeminism can help to transcend the five main categories of victimological theories that Zaykowski and Campagna (2014) labelled as victim precipitation, exposure/opportunity, learning/culture, control and critique. Only critical theory really includes ecological harms, because it focusses on the collective dimension of victimisation, questioning the concept of the victim in society and the lack of visibility for different kinds of harms in connection to social marginalisation, inequality and abuse of power. The standpoint of critical victimology (Mawby and Walklate, 1994) allows interrogation about a narrow, logic-quantitative vision of human beings in different contexts. Presenting that vision as purely scientific is primarily a political task because it makes certain injustices invisible or unavoidable (Varona, 2019b).
Touching Ethical Concerns: The Ethics of Consideration and the Possibilities of a Non-anthropocentric Vision of Human Rights
Ultimately, the concerns and questions explained above enter into the realm of political ethics. To add further perspectives, one of the best-known animal rights activists in Europe, the French philosophy professor Corine Pelluchon (2016), has developed a line of thought that has impacted on the Spanish academy, in relation to the concept of vulnerability. Pelluchon explores what she calls the ethics of consideration. The focus of this ethics is placed not on abstract norms or principles but on how a subject acts and perceives themselves, in relation to other entities. In this sense, the situation of nature and animals offers us a critical reflection of our economic and social development, as well as upon the basis of our contemporary ethics and justice. According to Pelluchon, everyday human practices impacting humans and nonhumans evidence the injustice of our justice system. Thus the ecosystem- and animal-related questions are a mirror of humans. That mirror shows an image of an uncritical acceptance of the current capitalist and consumer model based on an endless exploitation of the earth and its living beings, which is possible in part, because of a dissociation between reason and emotions.
As argued above, the ecological question is primarily an ontological one about what it means to be human in our relationships with nature and animals and what can be understood from that connection. Answering these questions by considering that the subject that is the basis of all political theory is not an abstract living being raises the idea of a corporeal and relational one. In this arena, our politics is always ecopolitics, because it has an impact on ecosystems. The ethics of consideration would mean to be aware of and minimise the harms to ecosystems. This awareness is a global one, where social justice and ecology cannot be separated. Pelluchon gives some proposals for advancing from ethics to politics with concrete steps for the minimisation of ecological harms. Thus, by considering ecosystems and animals as political, although not deliberative, subjects, Pelluchon talks of a ‘dependent agency’ with different autonomy margins. To integrate the value of animals and ecosystems in political theory and the theory of justice, with an emphasis on moral and social accountability, means to recognise that animals and ecosystems count for life and politics, even if they are not placed in totally symmetrical relationships.
With this ethics of consideration in mind, rejecting conservative and naïve interpretations, critical ecofeminism might offer the possibility of a different humanism. The term ‘humane’ is connected to humus, relating to the earth. That critical humanism implies a way to live together, avoiding domination, by proposing rules more emancipatory and respectful to others. Enhancing acknowledgment and belonging makes room for different others. It might favour facing vulnerability with conditions of possibility for empowerment and agency that mean expressing individual and collective interests.
Final Remarks on Ecofeminist Literature Imagination for Criminology: Earth and Equality as Hyperobjects of Emancipatory Sustainability
In relation to ecological ethics (Araújo, 2018), critical ecofeminism could foster a certain ‘reflexive lightness’ in order to keep fighting against the asymmetries of power. By ‘lightness’, it is meant that the capacity to elevate oneself from the huge and complex burden of oppression and suffering, transcending ‘indifference totalitarianism’ or collective self-learned helplessness in the face of global injustices, including environmental harms, in order to disrupt their cultural, economic and social logic.
In learning from past academic, and activist, efforts to foster gender equality and social justice, ecofeminism invites us to envision a more inclusive language (Barthes, 1986) in order to understand the interrelational elements of ecological justice (White, 2013; Brisman and South, 2018). The idea of lightness might also be connected to the concept of imagination in social sciences and literature (Murphy, 1995). In relation to critical theory, beyond consciousness, Lori Gruen (1997) calls our attention to the role of imagination and perception. With the echo of affect theory, imagination and perception come before awareness, perhaps in a reinterpretation of enlightenment values (Garcés, 2017).
As set out in the introduction and reflected in the title, this chapter argues that, even with limitations (Cuomo, 1992), ecofeminism, particularly the contributions of the Spanish ecofeminist Alicia H. Puleo (2018), can be taken as a new critical standpoint and a new language to enhance the criminological and victimological imagination and to rethink some rules of the criminal justice system connected with emancipation from suffering. According to Agger (2006), all critical theory entails six dimensions both in ecofeminism and green criminology: critical ethics; critique of domination and exploitation; dialectical reason; struggles and political practice; ideology critique; and political economy.
Ecofeminism brings natural sciences within the quest for criminological transdisciplinarity, including philosophy and arts. Estévez-Saá and Lorenzo-Modia (2018) have examined the link between ecofeminism and ecofeminist literary criticism – within ecocriticism as a movement of literary analysis in which ethics and aesthetics merged on the basis of the relationship of human and nonhumans, as shown in cultural green studies. These authors observe this question from the point of view of what they call ‘the ethics and aesthetics of eco-caring’. They have applied ecofeminist principles to the analysis of where different cultural phenomena should be included and how scientific discourses, including law, criminology and victimology, have been used to perpetuate systems of domination and exploitation (Estévez-Saá and Lorenzo-Modia, 2018). These authors stress ‘the potential of literature for rendering novel formulations of alterity in terms of dialogue, as well as seeing in literature of narrative strategies for devising environmental concerns’ looking for ‘emancipatory strategies’ of conceiving the way humans relate to the rest of the entities with ‘interest in devising future lifestyles that envision alternative encounters with the other’, ‘demonstrating how we humans have been forced to renounce any ownership of a natural, primeval language. This has culturally and artificially separated humans from the nonhuman world’ (Estévez-Saá and Lorenzo-Modia, 2018: 141) and has misplaced our relationships with alterity.
In 1991, the American writer and activist Terry Tempest William wrote Refuge, a work of literature considered to represent part of the ecofeminist movement. It is a book denouncing ecological harm together with the domination of women in different forms, but also a call to resistance and survival. As Alkhattabi (2019) emphasises, the author tells her grandmother about the poor well-being of both women and the earth. Furthermore, Terry Tempest Williams states that the health of the planet and the health of women is the same thing. However, this might bring a too utopian and homogeneous vision. This does not correspond with the concept of deep ecology, as first expressed by Arne Naess where we can see recognition of a complex interdependence with all living entities having an intrinsic value, part of which might be in conflict with others. Thus some decisions on best alternatives have to be taken in a respectful way.
In fact, in comparison to deep ecology, the so-called dark ecology seems more interesting for critical feminism. For its main author, Timothy Morton (2016), dark ecology implies a radical self-questioning where artistic practices take an important role. Nature is not a thing out there. It is certainly not a scenography. According to Morton (2015: 1), ‘dark ecology begins in darkness as depression. It traverses darkness as ontological mystery. It ends as dark sweetness’. It is an ‘uncanny awareness’ to transcend indifference. Morton (2016: 4) proposes an ‘ecognosis’ as knowing and ‘letting-be-known’. He relates these concepts to others, like mesh or symbiosis, which can be keys to more profound criminological knowledge in this field. This can only happen when questioning that knowledge itself.
With great interest for victimology, Morton’s concept of intangible ‘hyperobjects’ (entities so big in time and space that they cannot be touched and are very difficult to understand in their complexity – the atmosphere is one of his examples) is remarkable. Because awareness and decryption of the meaning of the interconnection between humans and nonhumans is important, the concept of dark ecology has much to do with visualising harms in victimology. Moreover, because the capitalist accumulation process depends on the regulation of heterosexuality and also ecology, it should be asked how gender and social and ecological injustices can be framed as matters of recognition and redistribution (Fraser, 1998; Fraser and Honneth, 2003). In a dualistic vision of gender and class, Fraser understands that malrecognition and maldistribution are separated as forms of subordination or injustice. Even if they might be related, malrecognition expresses a cultural subordination, whereas maldistribution indicates an imposed economic hierarchy. From a more monistic or holistic understanding, Honneth sees the lack of recognition as encompassing both forms of injustice, because individual subjectivity is constituted by the social structures. But how can reciprocity of recognition be imagined in ecological terms?
This does not seem a question of identity or homogeneity in being but of diversity and common-realisation (not just self-realisation) of numerous diverse beings (the earth is neither male nor female, and plants and animals are also beyond the equality debate). Imagining a new politics of common and interdependent goods, both socially and ecologically, and applying different scales when identifying goods does not mean relativism. On the contrary, it might help to go beyond the mere appearance of what reality is by deconstructing it. Linking the demands of the women’s movement and those of the ecological movement might elicit a radical questioning of socioeconomic relations and values in society that affect the criminal justice system in a concrete and broad sense (Estévez-Saá and Lorenzo-Modia, 2018).
Puleo reminds us of the already quoted Spanish feminist Celia Amorós. Amorós wrote about the polemic comments of Lévi-Strauss when opposing the entry of the writer Marguerite Yourcenar to the French Academy. By ironically using the structuralist anthropologist’s own words, Amorós invokes the need for mutual interpellation to reach equality. She argues that ‘all rules of all tribes must be discussed’ (Puleo, 2018: 430). This statement can be interpreted here to include all rules of all feminism, all criminology and all ecology, retaining the best of each tradition in terms of social justice.
‘It is about a rhythm of thinking penetrating into the reality, beyond appearance, of which only a visionary language can take care.’ Free translation.
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- Part One: The Origins of Feminist Criminology
- Introduction to Part One
- Chapter 1: Evolving Feminist Perspectives in Criminology and Victimology and Their Influence on Understandings of, and Responses to, Intimate Partner Violence
- Chapter 2: Feminist Perspectives in Criminology: Early Feminist Perspectives
- Chapter 3: Feminist Approaches to Victimology
- Chapter 4: Feminist Activism and Scholarship in Resisting and Responding to Gender-based Abuse
- Chapter 5: Feminist Criminology in a Time of ‘Digital Feminism’: Can the #MeToo Movement Create Fundamental Cultural Change?
- Part Two: Research Beyond the Global North
- Introduction to Part Two
- Chapter 6: Gender Violence Law Reform and Feminist Criminology in Brazil
- Chapter 7: The Contribution of Critical Ecofeminism to the Criminological Debate in Spain: Debating All Rules of All Tribes
- Chapter 8: Public Attitude Towards Rape Crime and the Treatment of Its Victims in Delhi City
- Chapter 9: On Honour, Culture and Violence Against Women in Black and Minority Ethnic Communities
- Part Three: Extending the Criminological Agenda
- Introduction to Part Three
- Chapter 10: Masculinities and Interpersonal Violence
- Chapter 11: Disrupting the Boundaries of the Academe: Co-creating Knowledge and Sex Work ‘Academic-activism’
- Chapter 12: Social Change and the Banality of Patriarchal Oppression and Gender Inequality
- Chapter 13: Reflections on Women’s Resistance and Social Change in Africa
- Chapter 14: Speaking Life, Speaking Death: Jerusalemite Children Confronting Israel’s Technologies of Violence
- Chapter 15: Caught between a Rock and a Hard Place – Human Rights, Life Imprisonment and Gender Stereotyping: A Critical Analysis of Khamtokhu and Aksenchik v. Russia (2017)
- Part Four: Looking to the Future
- Introduction to Part Four
- Chapter 16: Bringing Racialised Women and Girls into View: An Intersectional Approach to Punishment and Incarceration
- Chapter 17: Technology and Violence Against Women
- Chapter 18: Enhancing Feminist Understandings of Violence Against Women: Looking to the Future
- Chapter 19: Criminological Lessons on/from Sexual Violence
- Chapter 20: Gender-based Violence: Case Studies from the Global South
- Chapter 21: Postscript. Feminism, Activism and Social Change: A Call to Action for Feminist Criminology