Conceptualizing Subsistence as a Response to Capitalist Violence against African Indigenous Women

Citation:

Ahmed, Fathima. 2018. “Conceptualizing Subsistence as a Response to Capitalist Violence against African Indigenous Women.” Agenda 32 (4): 22-31.

Author: Fathima Ahmed

Abstract:

Africa, a continent whose economy is constrained by state and capital, fails to meet the basic needs of the population amidst worsening inequalities and violence. Subsistence producers globally, including indigenous small-scale farmers, pastoralists and hunter gathers, meet the basic needs for the majority. Two-thirds of these producers are women who work autonomously of the state and the market using relations of commoning. These are systems of sharing, collective labour and equal access to and care over nature. ‘Commoning’ is important to indigenous livelihoods, identity and survival, reflecting a strong relationship with the land. Resource-rich indigenous lands are as crucial to capitalist production as they are to anti-capitalist alternatives found in subsistence, and to life itself. African indigenous claims represent grassroots mobilisation for cultural self-determination in the wake of recent enclosures. Enclosures are turning commons into militarised zones, threatening the existence of indigenous peoples. These zones reflect a deliberate cultural packaging of misogynistic violence. Women are an important socio-ecological medium through which corporate-state violence impacts indigenous lives, livelihoods and bodies. As their reproduction and care responsibilities are land-dependent, ecological destruction harms women first. Using indigenous knowledge and practices, women are at the forefront of defending relationality with the land from capitalist destruction. They symbolise both an alternative and a threat to capitalism. As this article demonstrates, violence on the land and violence on women’s bodies are linked. Hence, feminist Lierre Keith contends that “militarism is a feminist issue, rape an environmental issue, and environmental destruction a peace issue” (Rebecca Weiss, ‘Sexism in the Olympics? You shouldn’t be surprised’, Patheos Catholic: Suspended in Her Jar, August 15, 2016). This activist article, using indigenous and anti-capitalist transnational feminism, highlights women’s agency and knowledge in providing life-centered and peaceful alternatives to the socio-ecological crisis across the continent, through a subsistence perspective.

Keywords: subsistence, indigenous women, commons, relationality, anti-capitalism

Topics: Economies, Environment, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Livelihoods, Political Economies, Rights, Indigenous Rights, Land Rights Regions: Africa

Year: 2018

© 2019 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.