Turkey Diaries: Part Dört*

I’m super busy right now. Which is good. I have a ton of reading to do, and I have to do it all before leaving for a combined business/pleasure trip to the famous rock climbing destination of Geyikbayiri early on Tuesday morning. I’m obviously really looking forward to going but also a little stressed because of all the things I should get done before, during, and after the trip. I have about a week to spend there between classes. I’ll try to soak up as much sun as possible, get in some good climbing, maybe do a little running on the Lycian Way, and also try to do some interviews for the dissertation project. I’ll write a dedicated blog post about the trip afterwards.

So what else is happening? In class we have been getting seriously into the feminist approaches to ecocriticism. We have covered ecofeminism/feminist ecocriticism as well as started to read up on material feminisms.

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Credit of mash–up pic: iupress.indiana.edu

I’m fairly well versed on feminist ecocriticism since my own research project, ecomasculinity, is essentially a supportive concept of it. I have also acquainted myself with   the “material turn” in humanities lately but I have to admit that the theory especially in this Material Feminisms book is on such a level of complexity and sophistication that I’m at the absolute limits of my very limited brain powers trying to understand it all. Still, very interesting stuff.

Just a couple of random thoughts before finishing with another response paper: First, the political situation is still volatile but has, at least from my limited perspective, calmed down slightly since the last posting. Enough so that I have read some of the non–political articles from the Turkish English–language newspaper Hurriyet Daily News. I thought that this story about a mother getting sued by her own son for throwing a slipper at the son was rather interesting, especially the mother’s defense: “Is there any mother who does not throw slippers at her child when she’s angry at them?” Well I guess so…

Second, at least remotely related to ecomasculinity, I found this Finnish advertisement pretty interesting. The Finnish pizza chain Kotipizza has started marketing a vegan pizza. In their marketing strategy they have decided to use a hypermasculine, tattooed, weightlifter type. What do you think of the strategy? Why have they done this?

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Credit: ad by Kotipizza, screenshot by me.

Then, as in the last blog post, I’ll finish by publishing here my newest response paper for my class on Culture and the Environment. I was pleasantly surprised to get positive feedback on my last paper, so I feel slightly less mortified about posting this new one here. Again, feel absolutely free to skip this but read on if you happen to be interested in feminist ecocriticism and such things. Greta Gaard, the author of the paper, is actually one of the most prominent theorists in ecofeminism/feminist ecocriticism, and I have followed her work for quite some time, especially since she has lately also taken an interest in ecomasculinity. Anyway, here’s my response paper:

Response Paper on Gaard, Greta: “New Directions for Ecofeminism: Toward a More Feminist Ecocriticism.” ISLE 17.4 (Autumn 2010): 643–665.

            In her article on the future of ecofeminism Greta Gaard argues that previous ecocritical scholarship has “backgrounded, omitted, or even distorted” the importance of feminism in the history of ecocriticism (643). Specifically, she names Simon Estok, Joni Adamson, Scott Slovic, Lawrence Buell, and Greg Garrard as all being implicated in this. Therefore, she stresses that it is important both to rectify the “historical record” as well as to introduce “new directions” (643) for ecofeminism, or, feminist ecocriticism. She suggests seven specific directions to be taken, and I will next introduce each of them.

            As the very first direction to be taken, Gaard wants to highlight the importance of a proper understanding of ecocriticism’s history. Continuing on her critique of previous works on the history of ecocriticism she states that it has often neglected to include “the analytical frameworks for gender, species, and sexuality,” (644) and further, that Greg Garrard, for example, has falsely equated ecofeminism with the problematic Gaia hypothesis. Quite alarmingly, she also claims that feminist ideas, even within ecocriticism, are only taken seriously “when presented via non–feminist sources” (645). She is also critical of the wave model of both ecocriticism and feminism, specifically criticizing the implicit “whiteness” and Global North emphasis of those models. Gaard ends the first section by reminding the reader that, just like feminism has been a vital part of the history of ecocriticism, so has ecological feminism been important to the development of feminism in general.

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(I thought I’d again stir things up by inserting a couple of random pics here that bear no relation whatsoever to the topic at hand. This is a pic of my usual running place here in Ankara. This city is horrible to run in (well, so are most cities of this size) so for most of my runs I’ll just do laps around this track. Yeah I know… Well, good music and good podcasts help some.)

            The second new direction she proposes includes incorporating a more feminist approach into environmental justice ecocriticism because, despite some previous “tensions” between them, (647) ecofeminism and environmental justice should nevertheless “see one another as allies” because they both share the same values of opposing “hierarchy and domination,” (648) even though they have tended to come from different ethnic, sexual, and class backgrounds. This is a pertinent argument, although it might be noted that opposition to “hierarchy and domination” are general traits in many other academic disciplines, too, and that alliances between many more facets of critical theory, humanities, and social sciences could potentially be formed based on that opposition.

            Gaard’s third proposed new direction is sexual justice. She claims that reproductive issues should become more central to the “environmental justice movement” because feminist ecocriticism could help understanding the intersectionality of the oppression of both nature as well as womens’ and minority sexualities, (649) citing various examples that range from sexual violence in drug–infested Mexican cities to rural anti–gay violence in the United States.

            The fourth direction suggested would investigate interspecies justice using Simon Estok’s concept of ecophobia together with Amber Hollibaugh’s erotophobia concept. Gaard offers ecocritical readings focused on the issue of speciesism as one way for ecocritics to explore this issue, and she also agrees with Estok that ecocritics, in order to be credible, must combine theory with praxis, i.e. it is “difficult to take seriously…the ecocritic who theorizes brilliantly on a stomach full of roast beef on rye” (Estok quoted in Gaard 650–651).

            In the fifth section Gaard focuses on cross–cultural strategies and the expansion of feminist ecocriticism beyond its current western context. Specifically regarding East Asia, she offers “Buddhist vegetarianism” (652) and its emphasis on the avoidance of all unnecessary harm to other living beings as one possible connecting bridge between east and west.

            The sixth new direction that Gaard proposes is feminist ecopsychology as something distinctly different from Deep Ecology’s previous use of it. She’s specifically interested in things like PTSD among “animals in captivity” as well as “those who work to free them” (653).

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(The other alternative for running that I have found is head up this one big street right from the house. This route is about three kilometers one way and it’s uphill all the way; about 200 meters of vertical gain so not super steep but still OK training for mountain running. I rather think the scenery here is like San Francisco..?)

            The final, seventh, direction that Gaard proposes is feminist place studies. Gaard specifically asks, referring to Ursula Heise’s Sense of Place and Sense of Planet, how ecocosmopolitanism and environmental justice relate to “ecofeminist perspectives on place, home, and bioregion” considering how home has traditionally been gendered as feminine as opposed to the public space that is traditionally gendered as masculine (655). Gaard argues for a kind of “rehabilitation” of bioregionalism, which has aims to change “economic, political, and institutional structures,” (656) as a complimentary counterpart to Heise’s ecocosmopolitanism. This last new direction is interesting because it also outlined one potential space, or place, for (pro)feminist men. Previously, on pages 646 and 648 she had implicitly defined ecofeminism as a practice that is open only (or mostly) to women but here she specifically wants to engage men in traditionally feminine activities like home–making, “nurturing and caring” (656).

            In her conclusion, Gaard wants to further emphasize the importance of praxis to ecocriticism, implying that in order to truly “challenge ecophobia, economic globalization, and corporate governance” (659) ecocritics must also embrace environmental and feminist work done outside academia and, in the end, always question whether their own activities as “ecocritics contribute to the liberation or the overconsumption of all species” (660).

So that’s it again. If you made it this far: congratulations for your tenacity. If not: congratulations for having a life. I’ll return with a blog post on the Geyikbayiri trip, and possibly some general thoughts on ethnography, too.

*Dört. I just think it’s a funny word. Means “four” in English.

Featured image in the unfortunate–for–turkeys spirit of Thanksgiving (not visible in mobile theme) credit: dreamstime.com

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