Ecofeminism and Xenofeminism

Instructor: Sophie Lewis
This is an online course (Eastern Time)

Environmentalists frequently describe the earth in feminine terms (“mother earth”). But is nature a good ground for feminist politics? For Ecofeminists—the radical feminist eco-philosophers who emerged out of the anti-nuclear, indigenous rights, and environmental movements of the 1970s and ‘80s—the “rape of the planet” and the systematic plunder of female bodies are two sides of the same patriarchical-capitalist coin. But why is the earth seen as a woman—and should it be? Alongside ecofeminism, a parallel tradition arose: Xenofeminism. Cybernetic, techno-curious and sometimes technophilic, xenofeminists see technology and the transcendence of the “natural” as central to feminist emancipation. (“If nature is unjust,” the Xenofeminist Manifesto proclaimed, “change nature!”) To this day, ecofeminists and xenofeminists converge and clash in debates about climate justice strategy, decolonization, transgender healthcare, and reproductive freedom. Is “nature” a basis for, or a hindrance to, an emancipatory feminist politics—and what does patriarchy have to do with it? How can we understand the nexus between gender, nature, technology, and oppression?

In this course, we will explore the competing, yet sometimes complementary, approaches of eco- and xenofeminism—with the aim of equipping ourselves with a conceptual toolkit that we urgently need in the “Anthropocene” (or, to quote Joshua Clover and Juliana Spahr, Misanthropocene). From Val Plumwood to Donna Haraway, from Maria Mies to Octavia Butler, from Vandana Shiva to Sadie Plant, and from Winona LaDuke to the Laboria Cuboniks collective, we will study the roots and foundations of the eco/xeno argument, as well as recent critiques of both “sides” by critics including Annie Goh and Greta Gaard. As we gain familiarity with the two camps’ approaches to “masculinist” epistemes, alienation, and capitalism, we will explore their implications for the politics of disability or “Crip” liberation, climate change, and queer sexuality, to name but a few. Ultimately, though, we will ask, does ecofeminism and xenofeminism really constitute a dichotomy? Noting that “both eco- and xenofeminists have taken up questions of nature, technology, femininity, dominance, and the human itself in remarkably different, sometimes complementary, ways,” the political theorist Alyssa Battistoni has proposed a synthesis of the two: “xeno-eco-feminism (xecofeminism?)—an ecofeminism that’s strange, monstrous, and alien, that’s against ‘Nature’ in the sense of the given order of things but interested in nature as it actually exists in the world.” As far-right and troubling new eco-fascist formations take shape in the United States, can we identify and amplify the antifascist and socialist “xecofeminisms” already live in the wild?

Course Schedule

Saturday, 3:00-6:00pm ET
February 04 — February 25, 2023
4 weeks


Registration Open

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