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.