Embodying Climate Justice - What does it mean?
Updated: May 25
For the last year, I've been working on a Masters thesis in Dance Studies at the Free University Berlin on the intersection of dance and climate justice. Here is a brief abstract about the research and once it's done (in the coming months) I look forward to sharing excerpts with you!
The separation between humans and nature lies at the root cause of climate change. It propels the resource extraction and labor exploitation foundational to both capitalism and colonialism. This separation can be linked back to the separation between mind and body – which a somatic perspective advocates to reconnect. A holistic view of the body and its interconnectedness in the web of life on Earth is critical to addressing this separation. Environmentalists and feminists have approached this separation for many years now – particularly in the field of ecofeminism which attempts to bring a feminist approach to environmentalism. However, after nearly thirty years, it remains on the peripheries of ecological thought, mostly due to prevailing sexism within academia, but also because both of these fields exist within white-dominated spaces where racist and colonial lineages and are not directly addressed as root causes of climate change. The root cause of separation leading to climate change is entrenched in colonial and racist systems of exploitation that continue to fuel capitalist and imperialist relationships. If the body-mind split is at the core of the climate crisis, then embodiment practice can be a critical pathway for climate justice. This requires an intersectional approach where racial justice and gender queering are brought front and center into climate change activism.
From this intersectional lens, this research analyses dance practices that center decolonization and gender queerness through their embodied methods for addressing the mind-body, earth-human, and man-woman dichotomies at the root of climate change and social injustice. Inspired by Robin Wall-Kimmerer's indigenous perspective, Joanna Macy's "The Work that Reconnects," and the term Connective Practice from Joseph Beuys’ Social Sculpture lineage, I expand on this theory by giving real examples of how dance and embodied practices can intervene in the hierarchical systems that separate us. Connective practices call attention to the illusion of separation and shift towards a consciousness of connectedness (with self, others, and Earth). When situated within the climate justice movement, these connective practices propose pathways towards embodied climate justice.