Forests of Pleasure and Pain: Gendered practices of labor and livelihood in the forests of the Kumaon Himalayas, India


Gururani, Shubhra. 2002. “Forests of Pleasure and Pain: Gendered Practices of Labor and Livelihood in the Forests of the Kumaon Himalayas, India.” Gender, Place & Culture 9 (3): 229–43. doi:10.1080/0966369022000003842.

Author: Shubhra Gururani


This article examines the dominant gender and environment discourse in India and argues that, so far, analyses of gender and environment have pursued a utilitarian and mechanistic understanding of the nature-society relationship. By focusing on gendered practices of livelihood, narrated memories, and oral accounts of embodied pain and pleasure in the forests of the Kumaon Himalayas, India, the author discusses the conceptual limitations that inform this discourse and argues for a culturally and geographically embedded understanding of nature-society relationships. It is argued that places of nature are not just biophysical entities, isolated from local, regional, and global relations of power, but are dialectically constituted by local politics of place, history, and ecology and are constitutive of social relations. In Kumaon, the identities of women are constituted through, always entwined with, everyday practices in the forest, and culturally specific notions of proper behavior, 'good mothers,' and 'dutiful wives' are mapped in the overlapping domains of village and forests. Such a view of the nature-society dynamic, it is argued, is critical for a grounded and locally meaningful understanding of how gendered relations are operationalized in nature and for insights into thinking about policy issues.

Topics: Environment, Gender, Women, Gendered Discourses, Livelihoods Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India

Year: 2002

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