Degrowth, positionality and decoloniality: reflections from the Masters on Political Ecology and Degrowth

In the Political Ecology & Degrowth Master, readings and topics for the classes often initiate
recurrent discussions amongst the students and teachers, touching upon the class material with
different critical lenses. Amongst the discussions that come up the most, there is the following
question; how to get out of the development discourse and enhance Degrowth without reproducing
the colonial or patriarchal patterns?

I completely agree that a thorough analysis and understanding has to be done to avoid repeating these patterns. Yet sometimes I feel slightly disconnected from what one might be expecting of
Degrowth. I don’t see Degrowth as an institution or a set of measures to be applied by a State to dictate what the new way of living should be like or acting as a chaperone to any movement. I feel
like Degrowth like everything else is imperfect. It is imperfect from its very core as all of its thinkers have their own personal imperfection; from their mere existences as humans-beings exploring life to their not yet deconstructed societal constructions. But what makes Degrowth particularly beautiful and distinguishes it – and some other progressive movements – from other human organisations is its will to continuously re-question itself, improve and expand its understanding of life, its plasticity of subjects of interest, and a free-flowing plurality of knowledge. Degrowth cannot be rigid and uniform. In my opinion, it can only be a platform of connecting ideas aiming towards a common goal of reconnecting to the living, where intellectual exchanges and sharing practices take place following mutual aid principles, where bridges and alliances are built, opening up to all of life’s possibilities and pieces of knowledge in the respect of the limits of the environment in which we live in.

In this sense, it must help to empower the movements and communities defending their rights to live and flourish in democratically horizontal ways. If it does so, how then can it reproduce colonialism and patriarchy? For if each and everyone gets a voice, access to knowledge, and debate, the latter two couldn’t survive in Degrowth prospects as all kinds of oppressions will continuously be outnumbered by the strength of the people emancipated and united. I understand – or at least listen attentively with the limits of my own constructions and positionality to – the frustration and anger that some hold regarding these long-time going issues, and I am aware my discourse here might seem a little idealistic.

Though what I am trying to say here is that even very progressive thinkers still remain within some systematic-oppressive constructions – and they will and we will always do to some extent – but their individualities shouldn’t be attacked as such and the movement(s) they belong to shouldn’t be condemned for it. The points of disagreement should be clearly stated, and the egos forgotten, to adopt intellectually honest conversations and go forward. Communicating with and trying to understand one another is not easy and can be a bit frustrating, even when we have similar Degrowth goals, but I still believe it can lead to great radical changes; as long as we try to adopt tolerant, open-minded and, nevertheless, determined postures.

LDG – student of 2020/2021 Political Ecology & Degrowth master

One Comment on “Degrowth, positionality and decoloniality: reflections from the Masters on Political Ecology and Degrowth”

  1. A friendy comment. I find it irritating that although you refer (I guess) to the Master in Political Ecology (Degrowth and Environmental Justice) at ICTA UAB you leave the Environmental Justice part of the title and of the programme outside (at least explicity) from your comments. In fact, in the Degrowth movement there is in my view a trend to have a narrow euro-centric or euro-atlantic perspective and forget the BIPOCS of the world, even those inside Europe and the US and mostly those outside, billions of them. I think that precisely what you demand in your text is to consider much more in the Master (many more hours in class, in discussions and writings) the many historical and contemporary struggles for environmental justice (and for “degrowth in practice”) from women and men in the Global South, as the main protagonists of the academic subject of Political Ecology and the main practitioners of Degrowth. For instance, there are people at ICTA writing doctoral theses and publishing articles on WEDs around the world (women environmental defenders). They should be teaching you.

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