ECOLOGY-AS-INTERSECTIONALITY


Ecology, positioned within critical thought, defines a mode of intersectionality, insisting on thinking, being and becoming at the cross section of multiple fields of social, political, economic, technological, and material determinations. Emerging from black feminist legal theory, intersectionality refuses to separate overlapping systems of oppression — including those of race, class, gender, and sexuality — in the figuration of social identity, and thereby prevents the essentialisation of one or other term in isolation. The methodology was first articulated by Kimberlé Crenshaw (in her essay ‘Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,’ University of Chicago Legal Forum 140 (1 January 1989): 139–67), though it has a longer conceptual genealogy in African American thought and in many other histories of decolonial struggle, even if the term intersectionality is not used. I develop the term as a methodology of political ecology in my recent book Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology (2016), examining such artistic research as Ursula Biemann and Paulo Tavares’ Forest law (2014), a multimedia installation that maps a network of Global South environmentalism, Indigenous activism, and practices of Earth jurisprudence in the Ecuadorian Amazon, all working to extend the rights of nature and contest the petrocorporate and state destruction of Amerindian forest culture. The intersectionality at stake here resonates within and beyond Latin America, touching on the rural US anti-fracking movement and the International Criminal Court’s environmental cases in The Hague, subSaharan Africa’s struggles to protect biodiversity and Indian subsistence farmers’ rights to livelihood, and Native American and First Nations attempts to stop the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. In these various struggles, ecological politics joins Indigenous rights activism, contesting police brutality, media censorship, and capitalist growth. This revolutionary Earth-centred legal shift, including its cultural manifestations, represents one forefront of the decolonisation of nature. The methodology helps us to avoid essentialising terms like wilderness, nature, or indigeneity, as if they exist in isolation, permanence, and purity.1

Defined by T.J. Demos
1. See T.J. Demos, Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2016); and T.J. Demos, ‘Rights of Nature: The Art and Politics of Earth Jurisprudence,’ Rights of Nature: Art and Ecology of the Americas (Nottingham: Nottingham Contemporary, 2015), http://www.nottinghamcontemporary.org. See also: Resistance Ecology’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ Resistanceecologyconference/info/? tab=page_info (accessed 15 De- cember 2015); and Anna Kaijser and Annica Kronsell, ‘Climate Change through the Lens of Intersectionality,’ Environmental Politics 23:3 (October 2014), 417–33.
Mark