Queer Ecologies and Ecomasculinities in the Himalayas of Bhutan, India and Nepal
Ecofeminism extends the western dualisms of ‘woman-nature connection’, ‘men with culture connection’ to inform not just gender, but also ‘race’, class and the separation of humanity from nature. For instance, women have been associated historically with nature, but also ‘non-white races’ and the working classes, often through their animalisation, and more indirectly by associating these constructed groups with the body and emotions, never reason or rationality. Ecofeminists have been crucial to understanding the interrelationships of systems of oppression, global and local. Ecofeminism has built a framework for critical discussions about the relationship between gender and nature. I argue that ecofeminists essentialise men as the problem and the one dominating nature. Ecomasculinity is concerned with how masculinities and ecologies interact and seek to uncover and examine more positive constructions of masculinity that interact with the world from a position of care and responsibility. Despite its broad focus on positive visions of masculinity, ecomasculinity as a concept does not necessarily run counter to the concerns or conclusions of ecofeminism. Ecomasculinities agree that “men and masculinities have been complicit in the lion’s share of our global and social-environmental problems”. Ecomasculinity, then, can be described as an expansion of the concept of masculinity within the framework of ecofeminism. Queer ecology and ecomasculinities recognise the limitations and redundancies of a mechanistic, dualistic worldview. The consciousness of deep ecology eschews all borders and carries conversations of hope around environmental humanities for an ecologically and socially just future.
I also critique the anthropocentric-cornucopian faith in technology and the free market. I seek to gather the disparate constructive initiatives/drives across the Himalayas steered by men either collaboratively or singly to show biocentric aspects of development, sustainability, livelihood and care/nurturing/reviving concerning nature. The paper attempts to critically engage with queer ecologies and ecomasculinities to unravel the deep ecological links between gender, development and the neo-liberal economy. Using ecological anthropology, I attempt to broad-brush the drives of the Capitalocene comparatively in the Himalayas of Bhutan, India and Nepal. The mountains’ complex political economy, including promoting the fragile mountain ecology to health tourism, ethno-tourism, homestays, nature stays, adventure tourism, and the pinkwashing and promotion of the Himalayas for pink tourism to tap pink capital. The question of development in/of the mountains vis-à-vis agriculture, education hub, tourism, forest management, infrastructural initiatives and connecting the local to the global economies has its limits. It compromises these critical zones and their commons, including water. It undermines sustainability through waste generation and disposal and increases carbon footprints. Taking an array of issues, the discussion in the paper revisits old questions of ecology, development, livelihood and sustainability in the age of the Anthropocene.
Keywords: Ecomasculinities, Queer Ecologies, Himalayas, Critical Zones, Carbon footprints, Capitalocene, Pinkwashing, Pink Tourism