The ecofeminist discourse in India and the Global South needs to be understood somewhat differently from its western counterpart that is rooted in ideology. Emphasis needs to be laid in the everyday experiences and material contexts of struggles of daily life in the Global South. The ecofeminist discourse needs to be analyzed in the context of the growing protests against environmental destruction and the privatization of the Commons. In this paper I propose to analyse the Appiko Chaluvali that took place in the early 1980s in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, India. The movement emerged to protect the natural forests of the district on which the spice garden economy of the region depends. The creative resistance put up by the people of the region through Yakshaganas (traditional folk theatre of Karnataka), Bhavageethes (form of poetry set to music), posters and so on are analysed. Even at present times, the women of the region have tried to forge a sisterhood across lines of caste, class and ethnicity to come together to solve their problems and to take initiatives such as starting seed collectives, cultivating kitchen gardens and subverting the dominant betelnut economy. It is in this context that one would like to critically analyse the discourse on ecofeminism and see if there is a distinct Indian variant of ecofeminism.
Manisha Rao is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Mumbai. An alumni of University of Pune, she is an expert in ecofeminist theory, gender theory, and women’s environmental movements in India. She is the author of several essays on these subjects, one influential paper being Theory and Practice of Ecofeminism in India. She was the editor of Reframing the Environment: Resources, Risk & Resistance in Neoliberal India, which was published by University of Mumbai Press in 2016. She has also undertaken research projects on related issues in various parts of India.