Environmental Management, Equity and Ecofeminism: Debating India's Experience


Agarwal, Bina. 1998. “Environmental Management, Equity and Ecofeminism: Debating India’s Experience.” The Journal of Peasant Studies 25 (4): 55–95.

Author: Bina Agarwal


There is today a widespread recognition that for effectively managing local forests and commons, we need the active involvement of village communities. But what shape should community institutions for environmental management take? Many favour the revival or replication of traditional ones. But what would this imply for social equity? Indeed are even the newly emergent institutions challenging traditionally unequal social relations? While the issue of appropriate institutions for environmental management is still being debated, there is a striking absence of a gender perspective within the debate. This neglect of gender continues in the face of a substantial parallel literature (and movement) that has grown under the banner of ‘ecofeminism’. Why has ecofeminism failed to provide a corrective? To what extent can it so serve? It is argued here that rather than challenging traditional inequities and revivalist tendencies, the historical representations, premises and prescriptions of ecofeminism (especially its Indian variant) could, in specific contexts, strengthen institutions that entrench gender inequalities. The experience of environmental management institutions in India bear this out. To transform gender relations, and relations between people and nature, will need enhancing the bargaining power of women vis‐a‐vis men and of those seeking to conserve the environment vis‐a‐vis those causing its degradation. Although illustrated from India's experience, conceptually these arguments would have wider relevance. 

Topics: Environment, Feminisms, Ecofeminism, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India

Year: 1998

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