Devika S, AJ College of Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
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A postcolonial ecofeminist perspective would involve the coming together of postcolonial ecocriticism and ecofeminism into one analytical focus, where it is inevitable to notice that the exploitation of nature and the oppression of women are intimately bound up with notions of neo-colonialism. This paper would focus on globalisation as a product of both colonialism and postcolonialism
Less prominently, the same year of the publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism in 1978, postcolonial history saw the origin of the term ‘ecocriticism’ in an article by William Rueckert with a concern for postcolonial studies, the redress of the historical legacies of colonialism and the revaluation of over-exploited and politically marginalized ‘natural environments’. In the turn of the twenty first century, the vital intersections between the politics of dispossession and the politics of ecological degradation have fused into postcolonial ecocriticism, a discourse with a dual focus characterized by Graham Huggan and Helen Tiffin. They said that “no social justice without environmental justice; and without social justice for all ecological beings- no justice at all” (Green Postcolonialism p10).
When we start with the movements for environmental justice in national level, the first in preference is the Chipko movement. In the stream of grass root environmentalism in India, Chipko movement has gained iconic status even in the international level. When we consider it for our topic, it has significance as a movement that mobilized women. Having been started with the concept of ‘tree-hugging’ for protecting the nature from deforestation, lumbering and mining, this movement originated in the Garhwal region of Uttaranchal in Uttar Pradesh, India. In a broader sense, ecofeminists note that the Chipko movement also involved a protest against capitalism and colonialism. Protecting the trees meant protecting the ability of women to control the means of production and the resources used in their daily lives. The ecofeminist interpretation of the Chipko movement includes an analysis of the material needs of women as much as it considers the need to protect nature from domination and oppression. Approaching ‘nature’ as both material environment and ideological construct is the premise from which postcolonial ecocriticism interrogates as Ursula Heise puts it in an afterword to Roos and Hunt’s volume, “the intertwining of concerns over social justice and environmental conservations” (Postcolonial Green p 252). Thus “what we mean when we use the word ‘nature’ says as much about ourselves as about the things we label with that word”. (William Cronon, Uncommon Ground p 25).
When we analyze the origins of Chipko movement, we would see the comparable spirit to accumulate wealth through the establishment of small-scale cottage industries by the exploitation of forests and tribal people’s non violent act to fight for the environmental justice. The postcolonial ecocriticism positions globalization often in a long history so that it can be accommodated to find out the process of colonialism to postcolonialism and then to globalization. Mike Davis’s Late Victorian Holocausts which is published in 2001 unpacked the periodization of the process of particularly the three “—ism’s” (colonialism, postcolonialism and globalism). The text focuses primarily on the disadvantages of ‘third world global capitalism’ where the forced treatment of changeover of subsistence agriculture into world markets have taken place for the first time in the period under Victorian rule. In contextualizing India, the advancement in technology and communication never produced fruit under British rule right from the beginning. The claim of Indian nationalists during the nineteenth century was that the British “progress” was Indian ruin. The colonization of an ‘imagined land’ by the westerners to exploit for market values through imperialism is a matter so strong to argue in a postcolonial debate in terms of “globalization”. If colonial rule was a nineteenth century globalization, what is prevailing in the postcolonial world is “neo-globalisation”. What I mean by neo-globalisation is a key product of neo-colonialism. Literally ‘new colonialism’, the term was coined by the first President of independent Ghana, and the leading exponent of Pan- Africanism, Kwame Nkrumah in his Neocolonialism: The last stage of Imperialism published in 1965. It explains the ‘bondage even in freedom’. Though the country like Ghana has got freedom from their colonizers, they are still in bondage of the aftereffects of colonization and the dominance in economy by country like America in the name of monetary bodies through the fixing prices on world markets. It leads the third worlds into a position where upliftment is unattainable. They remain to be marginalized everywhere.
Globalisation and Nature
The manifestations of globalisation such as expansion and intensification of the air traffic, car, truck and sea transport waste and increased consumption of water and fossil energy adversely affected the rhythm of nature. The range of these kinds of effects upon nature ranges from local to global. In order to meet the needs of raw-materials for timber and wood industry, trees are cut down in a large scale in Brazil and Indonesia. This process of deforestation to tackle the global phenomena may cause series of problems in regional as well as global level. Though the global disasters are yet to be fully realized, the side effects of polluted environment inevitably shows its relation with the global disaster called global warming. At local level, it is apparently evident through soil impoverishment, natural disasters and the shortage of ground water:
“As historical landmarks, the publication of The Limits to Growth, the first world climate conference organized by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 symbolize the growing concern about the devastation of the global environment driven by the process of globalisation”( Measuring Globalisation p 12).
The main drastic changes associated with the term globalisation are climatic changes, ozone depletion and the loss of biodiversity. The global climatic changes raised due to the green house effect results in the increase in temperature by one or two degree Celsius which is enough and more for the melting of the glaciers and the formation of water which creates the scenario of flood. Ecocriticism points out the need to conserve nature with an aim to safeguard the future. Since it showcases the authority of man over creating a situation like this in the name of development, global warming is a high sounded topic in postcolonialism. I would like to cite the expansion of the threat of global warming over the years. The first report is the article which came in the “Florence Times”, an American newspaper on March 2 1975:
“In the last decade, the Arctic ice and snow caps expanded 12 percent, and for the first time in this century, ships making for Iceland ports have been impelled by drifting ice. Many climatologists see this signs as evidence that a significant shift in climate is taking place—a shift that could be the forerunner of an Ice age like that which gripped much of the Northern Hemisphere before retreating 10,000 years ago” ( Howard Benedict).
From an isolated problem of snow expansion, the problem caused by Global Warming has reached in the extreme of ozone depletion in the year 2014. The following passage is a newspaper report published in ‘The Guardian’ on March 9th 2014 by Damian Carrington.
“Dozens of mysterious ozone-destroying chemicals may be undermining the recovery of the giant ozone hole over Antarctica, researchers have revealed. The chemicals, which are also extremely potent greenhouse gases, may be leaking from industrial plants or being used illegally, contravening the Montreal protocol which began banning the ozone destroyers in 1987. Scientists said the finding of the chemicals circulating in the atmosphere showed “ozone depletion is not yesterday’s story.”
All these things implicitly or explicitly identify the need for ecological balance that is primarily in the hands of the postcolonial world. In the present scenario, it is not possible to define the development what takes place in the third world countries as ‘sustainable development’. Without environmental harmony, no one can make a graph which shows a continuous development; it will only be a stunted growth; the growth that is insignificant in the sustainability of human beings.
Globalisation and Women
Capitalist globalisation today involves an unprecedented rise in the commodification of human beings. Studies show that in the last 30 years sexual trade has become a massively industrialized process. Women and children transformed to sexual commodities and the process is globalized and generates a massive amount which accounts from even millions to billions. Though the sex industry, previously considered marginal has now emerged into a successful trade unit to motivate industrial capitalism. From the localized prostitution to global sale of these ‘commodities’, people began to “think locally and act globally”. In the present scenario, a girl walking through a street in front of a group of male obviously receives comments using the words which are prevalent in the world of commodification. If they merely call the girl ‘a commodity’, there is no surprise to hear that because our culture itself has been deteriorated by treating women as the matter of ‘exploitation’. This particular aspect of globalization involves an entire range of issues crucial to understanding the world we live in. These include such processes as economic exploitation, sexual oppression, capital accumulation, international migration, and unequal development and such related conditions as racism and poverty.
The industrialization of the sex trade has involved the mass production of sexual goods and services framed around a regional and international group of labour. The ‘goods’ here indicates the human beings who sell sexual services. I would like to throw light into a newspaper report in India:
“We are women first, and sex workers only after that. We want you to recognize sex work as work. Instead of viewing us through the lens of social morality, we wish you would see us for what we are. Many of us are single women, supporting our children and old parents. We are informal, unprotected workers. Why should you and the police treat us as criminals?” (Harsh Mander The Hindu February 8th 2014).
Collectives of sex workers, speaking for an estimated three million workforce, are emerging slowly from the shadows across India. Though the globalisation and industrialization of sex trade have made contemporary prostitution to a qualitative position than yesterday, it never attributed the basic rights to women for not to be tortured. Thus mobilization here only means the mobility of the sex trade from local to global. It never meant the exaltation of the position of women in any manner.
Another shocking factor is that globalisation enabled the development of sex trade for the developmental strategy of different countries. It is mainly achieved through the sector of tourism and entertainment. In countries like Nepal and India, women and children are directly put into the regional and international markets, thereby becoming a forceful process for the female gender. At the same time, in countries like Thailand, local, regional and international markets develop simultaneously. Whatever is the mode of development, the ‘goods’ are transported transnational for the benefit of regions with weaker capital to the region with stronger capital. The increasing size and centrality of the global sex industry helps explain why so many groups and agencies are adopting normalizing regulatory approaches in their attempts to address its harms.
Huggan, Graham and Tiffin, Helen. Postcolonial Ecocriticism. London; New York: Routledge, 2010.
Roos, Bonnie, and Alex Hunt, eds. Postcolonial Green: Environmental Politics and World Narratives. University of Virginia Press, 2010.
Cronon, William. Uncommon ground: toward reinventing nature. New York: WW Norton & Company, 1995.
Davis, Mike. Late Victorian holocausts: El Niño famines and the making of the third world. Verso Books, 2001.
Nkrumah, Kwame. Neo-colonialism: The last stage of imperialism. Heinemann Educational, 1968.
Dreher, Axel, Noel Gaston, and Pim Martens. “Measuring Globalisation.”Gauging its Consequences Springer, New York (2008).
Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. Postcolonial studies: the key concepts. Routledge, 2013.
Devika S is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Communicative English at AJ College of Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. She completed her post graduation from English and Foreign Languages University ( EFLU), Hyderabad.
The Golden Line: Volume 1, Number 2, 2015