Sacred Custodians of the Earth? Women, Spirituality, and the Environment

By Alaine Low; Soraya Tremayne | Go to book overview

2
Gender, Nature and Trouble
with Anti-Dualism

Cecile Jackson

Non-Western religious traditions are seen in Western environmental discourses as free of the nature-culture dualism which is believed to underpin the oppression of both women and nature in Western history and thought, and the absence of which is thought to engender positive and sustainable relations between peoples and their environments in many non-Western societies. This chapter questions these assumptions and argues that the relationships between belief and action are contingent since religious beliefs do not determine environmental relations in either a direct or a necessarily significant way; and that subaltern spirituality has a complex relationship with dominant religious traditions. Tropes of nature may be implicated in both the subordination and the resistances of women.

What is radical in Western environmentalism is almost by definition non-anthropocentric, i.e. non-human-centred or bioethical, although as Tim Hayward has argued there is considerable confusion over these terms, and a need to distinguish anthropocentrism, speciesism and human chauvinism.1 Green theorists who differ in many other ways, see anthropocentrism as symptomatic of dualistic thought which divides nature from human culture and devalues the former, and many environmentalists share a concern to overcome this hierarchical dualism and to envisage, and practice, non-exploitative relations with nature.

In this chapter I am concerned with the gender politics of discursive efforts to overcome anthropocentrism, and of attendant claims that eastern and indigenous religions decentre dominant

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