Day seven: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

Here’s my diary of my trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.

Conference day four

Alex Ratts opened the day by talking about gender, race and space and Black women’s movements in Brazil. She focused on two authors: Beatriz Nascimento who studied Black (Afro-Brazilian) histories which is now part of Brazilian schooling because of her and Leila Gonzale one of the founders of the Unified Black movement, which is a key Black movement in Brazil. She started a collective of Black women inside of this movement.  These authors’ writing, linked with other women and men, and Brazil, focusing on the ways Black women live with racism and sexism. They emphasized the importance of writing of the self as a form of creating resistance and making new knowledges from our own experiences. These authors are becoming more and more importance and are starting to be part of the canon of feminist and black research.

Fernando Bertani explored young people, masculinity and drugs in Ponte Grosse, a city in South Brazil. He noted that the majority of deaths are young men between 15-25, who lack formal education, are single and white. Most are poor and live in specific areas of Ponte Grosse, most travel with drugs. Most are killed outside of city centre, the cities peripheries and this matches up with drug statistics. In his interviews with young men the spaces they mentioned the most as important were streets, and the least were schools spaces.  The street was associated with death, access to drugs and violence and the meanings that they give to space and time has to do with traffic of drugs. These young men believed that it was always possible that they would die, and this is a very present concept for them.  They lived contantly with the presence of death, both of themselves and others, even if they are the ones doing the killing. They believed their lives didn’t matter to anyone.

Rodrigo Rossi explored men and violence.  Again focusing on Ponte Grosse, these men discussed how they negotiated city spaces and how they were displaced when buying drugs.  They controlled this by organizing money and controlling their movements between themselves and with other gangs, as well as with the police. The places where they take crack cocaine were different from the spaces where they take alcohol and consume other forms of drugs. This is linked with the use of specific forms of drugs, so more closed than the other spaces. What Rossi concluded was that constructions of urban spaces is linked with marginalization of their lives, and whilst they were able to create some forms of functionality of urban space, it is not a city for all.

Veronica Ibarra Garcia moved from men to look at violence against women, in the network of prevention of femicide. She argued that feminist Geography was important, because you could speak from feminist perspective, both to read situations and also to change them. Violence towards women is not only happening in domestic space of the home, but also in other spaces and it is important to examine cultural elements as part of the violence.  She focused on a case study of a conservative region in Mexico, where most are Catholic, and there are only a few indigenous communities.  A young girl was killed there, with workers, doctors, psychologist, lawyers worried about the situation. Despite specific networks working on preventing violence against women, there is a lack of collaboration between different institutions. In this case this woman, before being killed had been to psychologists, hospital and the police to seek help for this violent relationship.  However, even though she had gone through all these spaces and no one helped. The man was sent to jail, because she had signed papers in front of lawyers saying she was experiencing violence. This lead to some changes and to feminist activisms where women working against violence against women, attempt to propose things to the government and institutions in order to make change happen.

In the evening, I was giving the concluding keynote to the conference.  I spoke about how the English language dominates the current knowledges of geographies of sexualities, and how we need to address this. I said this wasn’t just up to those who didn’t speak English or live in the UK/USA, it was up to all academics to work to democratize knowledge and to create ways of working that question the way power is currently working. To do that, we need to address our privilege, and look at what we are doing to be exclusionary, and how we might do things differently.  So it is not just about other places ‘catching up’, it also about how we use our privilege to maintain the Anglo-American position in the world, and we might do knowledge differently to make a more open, and richer sub-discipline.

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