Bright as Night: Illuminating the Antinomies of ‘Gender Positive’ Solar Development

Citation:

Stock, Ryan. 2021. “Bright as Night: Illuminating the Antinomies of ‘Gender Positive’ Solar Development.” World Development 138. doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2020.105196.

Author: Ryan Stock

Abstract:

India is undergoing a rapid transition to renewable energy; the Gujarat Solar Park typifies this transition. In addition to mitigating climate change, the Gujarat Solar Park boasts female empowerment through social development schemes. This manuscript is inspired by the following research question: To what extent are ‘gender positive’ processes and projects associated with solar development in India realized on the ground? Utilizing mixed methods fieldwork and drawing on literature from feminist political ecology, this paper demonstrates how the modalities of solar park development represent an antinomy of a nature-society relation. New configurations of labor under the political economy of solar have produced a gendered surplus population of landless peasants who are not absorbed into wage-labor employment in the solar park. Further, associated social development schemes actually disempower women, despite mandates of ‘gender positive’ outcomes by UN-based climate treaties to which this project is beholden. The opportunity to participate in one such scheme for female empowerment was reserved for only women of middle-to-high class status and those of dominant castes, thereby reproducing class and caste-based social power asymmetries. Female (dis)empowerment eclipses ‘gender positive’ guarantees of the solar park. This study highlights some unintended consequences of sustainable energy transitions in the Global South at the local scale. Designing development interventions related to climate change mitigation that boast ‘gender positive’ outcomes must be careful not to exacerbate gender disparities and economic exclusion in rural areas.

Keywords: energy transition, solar park, antinomy, feminist political ecology, gender, intersectionality

Topics: Caste, Class, Development, Environment, Climate Change, Feminisms, Feminist Political Ecology, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India

Year: 2021

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