Inspired by Diversifying and Decolonising Economics (D-Econ) last year’s fall reading list, we asked people affiliated with the Feminisms and Degrowth Alliance (FaDA) to share the favorite book they read in 2020 that – in one way or another – relates to their visions of feminist degrowth. We received a number of great recommendations that venture beyond andro- and Eurocentric perspectives, include academic literature as well as novels, and – in our perspective – offers some really great reads if you want to engage with feminist degrowth visions! So: here comes our summer reading list for you – we hope you enjoy!
I particularly enjoyed reading Julie Livingston’s Self-Devouring Growth: A Planetary Parable as Told from Southern Africa published in 2019. Livingston impressively traces how in Botswana the chimera of technocratic growth for development changed material relations with the other-than-human from rainmaking to hydrology, from cattle to beef, and from river sands to more and more roads. But she doesn’t quite stop there. Rather, she asks: “What else might we find if we take seriously those forms of knowledge that have been purged or suppressed?” (Livingston 2019: 8) And what she finds are relational ontologies quite different from those ones we are used to in neoliberal capitalism, because after all, she concludes, the “animated ecology is not a bank from which humans compete to extract. It is a living manifestation of myriad, ongoing historical relationships. It is a future world we create every day in the present. It is a future world that depends on collective self-agreement to maintain.” (ibid.: 126) - Corinna Dengler, feminist ecological economist, degrowth scholar activist & FaDA member based in Bremen, Germany
I recommend Minna Salami’s book Sensuous Knowledge: A Black Feminist Approach for Everyone – not specifically about degrowth, but she coins the word exousiance to describe power rooted in Nature. As she says, “for any redefining of power to have value in the twenty-first century, it must be concerned with how power is entangled with nature. Nature is a source of existential meaning…” Nicholas McNair, Lisboa, musician and member of DiEM25, FaDa and the Degrowth network (Rede de Decrescimento) in Portugal.
I enjoyed reading Silvia Federici’s Re-Enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of the Commons. Published in 2018 by PM Pres it presents a collection of several essays by Federici on feminism, Marxism, capitalism, and commons. Especially the chapter that asks how commons can be anti-capitalist inspired me a lot. Federici explores the structural devaluation of social reproduction and communal relations and thereby stimulates visions for the future. Her call for commoning and re-appropriating social wealth can inform strategies of scholar-activists to challenge capitalist separations. Sarah Neuffer, Undergraduate student at Leuphana University Lüneburg, member of Network for Pluralism in Economics, based in Lüneburg, Germany
I stumbled upon Lisa Lowe’s book The Intimacies of four Continents by pure chance, and I very much enjoyed reading it. In a sense, this is a book about the intentional production of oblivion of providers – which might be one way of relating to this list’s interests. It is a story about ways in which silences are produced, and throws into relief the inequities of liberalism, always concealed under its flashy, blinding shield of universal betterment. Analyzing the archive of liberalism alongside the colonial state archives from which it has been separated, Lowe offers new methods for interpreting the past, examining events well documented in archives, and those matters absent, whether actively suppressed or merely deemed insignificant. Lowe invents a mode of reading intimately, which defies accepted national boundaries and disrupts given chronologies, complicating our conceptions of history, politics, economics, and culture, and ultimately, knowledge itself”. Christos Zografos, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain; Research and Degrowth, Barcelona
I came across this collection Gender Myths and Feminist Fables a few years ago but finally got around to reading it this year and what a breath of fresh air it was. The collection is edited by Andrea Cornwall, Elizabeth Harrison, and Ann Whitehead. A lot of feminist discourse tends to essentialize gender and perpetuate limiting stereotypes such as “women take better care of the environment” or “women are more cooperative.” The authors in this collection give nuanced arguments as to why these myths can be harmful and how to change the language and framework towards more constructive interpretations of power and hierarchy that can translate into more meaningful practice. Mariam Abazeri, University of Miami; PhD Candidate in Environmental and Visual Anthropology; FADA coordination group member based in Miami, Florida.
How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell (2019) deeply influenced how I saw and experienced the spaces I inhabit for weeks after. The premise is perhaps misleading; this book unfolds into a full-blown manifesto for being, better and more fully, in the world. From a survey of contemporary performance art to incisive capitalist critique, this gorgeous book is both wide-ranging and also a lot of fun. It also pointed me to another strongly recommended book, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013) - that book also deserves inclusion here. Rebecca Rutt, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
The book Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown is incredible because it articulates in the midst of the neoliberal appropriation and valorization of life (as in bioeconomy, biomimicry etc.) a radical and revolutionary alternative to liberate life, written from the experience of radical Black Activism and inspired by Octavia Butler and Audrey Lord. An incredible guide also for activists to make care (including self-care) the essential moment for revolution. I really recommend it!! - Barbara Muraca, University of Oregon & FaDA member.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett has stayed with me weeks after I finished reading it and offers some very insightful prose on the influence of race, gender, and class in the United States on twin sisters who lead completely distinct lives when one leaves the other in order to pass as a young white woman in a segregated southern American town. The story spans over four decades and is told from multiple perspectives and generations, skillfully weaving and revisiting the experiences of all those touched by the two sisters and their struggles with racism, colorism, sexuality, class, community, and identity. A compelling story that embodies the complexity of generational grief and resilience. Mariam Abazeri, University of Miami; PhD Candidate in Environmental and Visual Anthropology; FADA member based in Miami, Florida.
It is some years old now, but Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013) put me to sleep happy every night while reading it. Robin combines and contrasts her knowledge and passion for Indigenous Peoples’ storytelling and epistemologies and Western science. She helped equip me with a better (and more accessible) language to describe relations with the more than human. Essential reading! Rebecca Rutt, Copenhagen, Denmark
I am halfway through Margaret Atwood’s MaddAdam trilogy and as a lover of dystopian futures fiction, the first book, Oryx and Crake (2003), was as disturbing and engrossing as I could ask for. This trilogy I believe will be useful in teaching about the intersection of patriarchy, gendered violence, and the destruction of the natural environment through contemporary literary fiction. I was prompted to read these thanks to a suggestion from queer ecologist Cate Sandilands in a recent podcast (that FADA affiliate Nadine Gerner helpfully suggested) :) Rebecca Rutt, Copenhagen, Denmark
My mission to finish Donna Haraway’s Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (1991) was accomplished this year and I believe this is already a classic! For me, the work of Harraway, as the cyborgs that she is imagining, entails somehow an entanglement of different identities, here those of biology, feminisms, and social critical thinking. These creatures, Cyborgs, somehow destabilize western evolutionary science, technology and by extent biopolitics. Accepting the modality of cyborgs, Haraway leads the way to deconstruct the dualisms that compose western modern thinking. It is a great combination of environmental philosophy, queer theory, and ecological political sciences. Looking back to the first time that I publicly spoke about a possible connection between queer theory and degrowth I felt so discouraged, but through this book I felt empowered again. - Eva Kouroumichaki (aka Evi Curu), master’s student in Environmental Education in Aristotle University of Thessaloniki & FADA member based in Thessaloniki, Greece
I stumbled across Jeanne Bourgart Goutal’s Etre écoféministe - Théories et pratiques during a time when ecofeminism was having a revival in France – through conferences, podcasts, festivals and especially in relation to anti-nuclear activism. This is one of the core books, french activists refer to (together with Emilie Hache’s anthology Reclaim). Bourgart Goutal retraces extensively the theoretical roots of ecofeminisms but also talks about the manifold ecofeminist practices all over the world in which she has become involved since she dedicated her thesis to ecofeminism(s). Anonymous FaDA member.
Sylka Scholz and Andreas Heilmann’s Caring Masculinities? Männlichkeiten in der Transformation kapitalistischer Wachstumsgesellschaften is on my christmas wishlist and I cannot wait to be back in Germany to finally read more than the 25 pages long sample online. I think that these reflections can be very insightful for the FaDA agenda pleading for a care-full degrowth. In a care-full degrowth society gender constructions especially around masculinity have to be transcended and I suppose that this book delivers fruitful theoretical and practical thoughts on this topic, hopefully inspiring some strategies and paths forward. Nadine Gerner, M.A. International and European Governance, University of Münster and Sciences Po Lille, FaDA member based in Toulouse, France.
Books that have been recommended by FaDA members without additional texts/information: