Allison Carter , Saara Greene , Valerie Nicholson , Nadia O’Brien , Julia Dahlby , Alexandra de Pokomandy , Mona R. Loutfy , Angela Kaida , On Behalf of the CHIWOS Research Team , On Behalf of the CHIWOS Research Team
The Gender, Place and Culture (GPC) Jan Monk Distinguished Lecture began in 2006. The editorial team had been discussing ideas for an annual lecture and it was at this time when John Paul Jones III and Sallie Marston (from the Geography Department at the University of Arizona) approached the GPC editorial team with an idea to honour Jan Monk’s many contributions to feminist geography. The University of Arizona Geography Department had successfully secured funding to invite a feminist geographer to visit their department for a week and to give a public lecture. With a desire to extend the benefits from this Arizona based lecture, they then suggested that each recipient also give a lecture at an annual meeting of geographers. Following this lecture, the manuscript could then be published in the journal. Given that Jan has been a long-time associate of the journal, the editors of GPC were delighted to be able to support this move. The generous financial help of our publishers, Taylor and Francis, also allowed this to become a reality.
This year’s GPC Jan Monk Distinguished lecture (the 11th lecture) was held at the Association of American Geographers (AAG) annual meeting in San Francisco. Dr. Sharlene Mollett – from the Department of Human Geography and the Centre for Critical Development Studies at the University of Toronto – was the recipient of the award. Before her lecture, Dr. Sapana Doshi from the School of Geography and Development at the University of Arizona outlined the history of the Jan Monk Distinguished Lecture.
Dr.Sharlene Mollett’s lecture was entitled ‘Irreconcilable Differences? A Feminist Postcolonial Reading of Gender Development and Human Rights in Latin America’.
Sharlene started her lecture by reminding us that the United Nations has set in motion two mandates: The International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (2016-2030). She then set about unpacking the inequalities of such universal prescriptions arguing that rather than being in an alignment, they in fact collide against the persistent emplacement of Afro-descendant communities and construct these people as less-than-human. A rich theoretical discussion, that drew together strands of postcolonial feminist political ecology, was used to unveil tensions underpinning the UN mandates and to critique the development ideologies they embrace. Sharlene focused on Afro-descendant women’s land struggles in Latin America, using ethnography, histories, voices and writings of Afro-descendant and indigenous women scholars and activists. One of the examples she used to illustrate her theoretical argument was residential tourism in Bocas Town (Bocas del Toro Province) in Panama. The changing landscape – due to residential tourism – is creating great pressure on resources, such as water. Yet, while tourism is celebrated as a state pathway to development, it contributes to Indigenous and Afro-descendent land displacement through land regularization and changing property laws. Alongside this, as Sharlene illustrated, is the hyper-sexualisation of Bocas Town’s residents.
Peter Hopkins, the Managing Editor of GPC, thanked Sharlene for her powerful presentation and facilitated the lively discussion that followed. About 70 people – including Janice Monk -attended this presentation.
Thank you Sharlene for your lecture. It has caused us to think more critically about political ecology and development theories.
The connecting thread in my research is a deep interest in the political economy of care, especially as it relates to inequality. I’ve recently finished my PhD at the University of Cambridge Department of Geography, where I was a Gates Cambridge Scholar. My dissertation analysed Peru’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, which incentivizes low-income women to ensure their children’s use of health and education services. CCTs currently dominate the development landscape. In focusing on the institutional organization of women’s ‘mundane’ experiences as CCT recipients, my findings revealed how well-intentioned social inclusion policy came to have unintended exclusionary impacts. Through this research I hope to construct a nuanced critique that also advances a constructive vision of more just social policy.
I arrived at Cambridge as a newcomer to geography. My background was decidedly interdisciplinary – I hold an MA in Women and Gender Studies and a BA in International Relations and Spanish. Despite how daunting the disciplinary shift felt at the time, I really wanted to work with Professor Sarah Radcliffe, who came to be my supervisor. Her research, and also the research of feminist geographers of care, had informed my previous work – which is a testament to the reach of geography’s contributions. And it’s fair to say I’m a convert! Geographical research elevates and enriches the broader debates around inequality, capitalism and development that I’m interested in.
My research seeks to contribute to feminist geography in two ways. Firstly, it emphasizes feminist geography’s significant perspective in broader multi-disciplinary discussions regarding contemporary welfare and development. Geography is an oft-overlooked element in gender analyses of CCTs. In contrast, my research underscores how the unevenly developed landscapes over which Peru’s CCT “Juntos” is implemented shapes the program’s gendered impacts. In addition to geography forums, I also present this research at Latin American Studies conferences and collaborate on multi-disciplinary publication projects. The second way my research contributes to feminist geography is through a relatively distinctive methodological approach. Institutional ethnography (IE) seeks to view institutions through women’s everyday experiences of them. While IE developed out of sociology, its multi-cited orientation is well suited to geographical projects. An IE approach allows feminist geographers to “map out” the power relations and bureaucratic procedures that propel forward institutions such as Juntos, all the while guided by a concern with women’s wellbeing. This particular methodological contribution yields data which centres women’s perspectives and enriches our understanding of gender and place.
Having just finished my PhD, I’m keen to pull threads from the dissertation and re-work them for publication. I used this generous award to present a paper titled ‘A critical exploration of poverty reduction and wealth production in Peru’ at the 2016 American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting in San Francisco (March 27-April 2). The panel I presented on was called ‘Uneven spatialities and the production of poverty knowledge’ and was hosted by the Relational Poverty Network, a collaborative scholarly community that seeks to disrupt normative understandings of and approaches to poverty.