RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016


161 VEXING THE NEXUS: FEMINIST INTERVENTIONS (1): Vexing the nexus: feminist interventions in nexus thinking
Affiliation Gender and Feminist Geographies Research Group
Convenor(s) Sherilyn MacGregor (The University of Manchester, UK)
Sarah Marie Hall (The University of Manchester, UK)
Alison Browne (The University of Manchester, UK)
Helen Holmes (The University of Manchester, UK)
Chair(s) Sarah Marie Hall (The University of Manchester, UK)
Timetable Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Session abstract Relational and intersectional thinking are longstanding foundations of feminist theorizing in geography, politics, and other disciplines. So too is the adoption of a ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’ in the face of academic trends that claim newness while ignoring intellectual debts and antecedents. Building on Allouche et al’s criticisms of the nexus approach as being a ‘(re)discovery by experts working in silos of what practising farmers and fishers already knew’ (2014:23), our purpose in this session is to deploy feminist insights to trouble nexus thinking. Much of what appears in the nexus literature seems both comfortably familiar and strangely blind to gender analysis, as is the case with theory and research in sustainable consumption and production more broadly. While theories of practice have made considerable progress in moving forwards debates in this area beyond the realm of individual consumer agency, we contend that the baby may have been thrown out with the proverbial bathwater. In focusing on practices themselves, we lose sight not only of individuals, but entire axes of difference along which practices vary in their performance and consequently in their reproduction. The starting point for this session is that gender is an important cross-cutting dimension of the water-energy-food (WEF) nexus. Asking questions about whose labour makes WEF available as resources, and in what locations, inevitably leads to analyses of feminized roles, women’s bodies and domestic spaces (e.g., kitchens, larders and laundries). Yet social practices, corporealities, and materialities are largely absent from nexus thinking. This 2 part session will consist of a traditional paper session, and then a ‘kitchen table’ discussion to give critical consideration of the knowledges and practices of those whose feminized labour is at the centre of a ‘domestic nexus’.

Linked Sessions VEXING THE NEXUS: FEMINIST INTERVENTIONS (2): Researching the ‘domestic nexus’
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
'The domestic nexus': critiques, provocations and opportunities for applying 'the nexus' to thinking about water-energy-food in homes
Alison Browne (The University of Manchester, UK)
Matt Watson (The University of Sheffield, UK)
Most engagement with 'nexus thinking' to date has focused on the supply side of water-energy-food (WEF). Arguably 'nexus thinking' has only been useful in disciplines and policy spaces where 'relationality' between WEF is a radical insight (Leck et al, 2015). Emerging work on the Domestic Nexus (e.g., Watson, Browne, Jackson, 2015) conducted between the Universities of Manchester and Sheffield highlights that in research on everyday life and the dynamics of consumption WEF interdependencies already take conceptual and methodological center stage (e.g., Watson, Jackson, Browne 2015). However, as it is currently being mobilised -conceptually and empirically - 'nexus thinking' has de-politicised WEF resource use and provision (Leck et al., 2015), including ignoring the political economies of the home, and related issues of gender and domestic labour. This project aimed to apply a practice theoretic approach to the burgeoning field of study of 'the nexus'. The rationales for extending the nexus concept to the domestic are that i) the dynamics of consumption are fundamental to a holistic understanding of the nexus as the systems of supply and distribution through which WEF flow are ultimately rooted in demand for services and products; ii) the nexus of WEF is as apparent at the domestic scale as anywhere else, being where systems of provision are brought together in the accomplishment of practices such as cooking and showering; iii) a large fields of research have already explored domestic consumption in each of the WEF domains, often revealing their interlinkages. The 'domestic nexus' concept integrates across domains by focusing on the coordination, reproduction, routines and rhythms of everyday life. This paper offers a range of critiques and provocations and opportunities about applying 'nexus thinking' to research on everyday life and the domestic.
Children's lunchboxes: a feminist perspective
Bendetta Cappellini (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Vicki Harman (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
This paper unpacks the experiences 30 British women making lunchboxes for their children, and their opposition for opting for school dinners. Findings emerging from photo-elicitation interviews and focus group discussions show how mothers consider themselves the only actor able to make a 'proper lunchbox'. School dinners are considered a risky option for their children and father's interference in preparing lunchboxes is viewed with suspicion. The paper shows how lunchboxes are an expansion of the intensity of mothering: a way of making home away from home, stretching the intensive domestic care used for toddler to school aged children. These empirical findings have theoretical implications contributing to the current debates on intensive mothering. If the literature on intensive mothering is focussed on domestic practices around toddlers and very young children, this study shows how intensive mothering is expanded in time and space. Such an expansion modifies the nature of intensive mothering, which, we argue, becomes expansive mothering. Expansive mothering is characterised by mothers' mediating role which places them between the child and the outside world. This role is mainly performed as a risk management activity aimed at recreating the domestic security outside the home. Craft consumption - such as the transformation of mass produced items into an individualised set of products and brands satisfying the child's desires- becomes crucial for extending the security of the home. Finally, expansive mothering also has implications for the unequal division of domestic labour. Expansive mothers are not simply victims of an unequal distribution of power and labour, but they appear to be actively implicated in maintaining the status quo.
Methodological challenges and approaches to researching the domestic nexus
Helen Holmes (The University of Manchester, UK)
Nexus thinking asks us to question the broad intersections of food-energy-water with the aim of responding to the global grand challenges contemporary society faces. Upstream, grassroots, Mode 2 type engagement and knowledge formation (Gibbons et al., 1994) are requested to deal with the complexity, non-linearity and heterogeneity (Thompson Klein, 2014) of these wicked problems of the Anthropocene (Sardar, 2010). Whilst Geographers are beginning to explore the boundaries of the nexus, making connections across time and space, the domestic nexus remains under researched. Furthermore, methods for examining the domestic nexus are also lacking. This is despite knowledges of the practices, politics and choreographies of the domestic sphere being crucial to tackling the 'real world' problems of food-energy-water security. This paper draws upon a study on household food practices, exploring how households are being thrifty with food in the wake of economic recession. It focuses on the challenges and pitfalls of the methodological approaches applied, which include both quantitative and qualitative methods. In doing so, it questions how we define the unit of analysis within the domestic nexus; determines issues with gaining access to the key narratives; and discusses how we include the everyday practices, materialities, corporealities and temporalities which structure this space. More broadly, the paper considers the possibilities of alternative, interdisciplinary and creative methodologies for studying the domestic nexus.

Laughing our way to sustainability: gender, embodiment and everyday consumption practices
Alison Browne (The University of Manchester, UK)
Geographical research on humour and (un)laughter have highlighted the politics of discourse (e.g., Ridanpää, 2014), and the scopes of possibility of taking humour and laughter more seriously within geo-political research and policy (e.g., Dodds & Kirby, 2013). The way humour creates affective atmospheres has also been explored in relation to mobilities (see Bissell & Hynes, 2012). Building upon recent work by Browne (in press 2016) this paper explores the opportunities to link research on the geopolitics of laughter and humour; embodiment, affect and emotion; gender; and research on everyday practice and sustainability. It reflects on six focus groups conducted on 'bodies, clothes, dirt and cleanliness'; reflecting upon the embodied dynamics underpinning the 'nexus' of water-energy in domestic tasks such as laundry and personal care. Taking (un)laughter seriously it is argued highlights the often unacknowledged, hilariously intimate political nature of many research and policy projects about sustainability and consumption, including increasing focus on the nexus of water-energy-food. As well as recognising humour and laughter as a potential tool for research everyday sustainabilities (Browne, in press, 2016), an attenuation to humour reveals the gendered, intimate, private and moralistic nature of many conversations within sustainable consumption research and policy, including of the ever popular sphere of 'everyday life' research.