Brigitte Baptiste discusses the queering of ecology
By Mary Margaret Hogan '18 | Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Mary Margaret Hogan '18
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
On October 3rd, ecologist Brigitte Baptiste visited UMass Amherst to discuss the relationship between ecology studies and queer theory. Since 2011, she has been the director of Instituto Von Humboldt and focuses on the economics of biodiversity conservation and the various environmental challenges within Colombia. As a transgender woman, she addressed her connectivity to queer theory; however, she doesn’t proclaim herself as an expert, but rather an avid activist in her community and career. For this particular lecture, Baptiste outlined her research of queer ecology and its links to biodiversity, as well as to sustainability.
As a native Colombian, Baptiste provides a queer lens to ecology in her country, as she expresses that Colombia’s education system is not as well-versed in women, gender, and sexuality studies as it could be. “I provide insight on the duality and ambiguity involved in gender and nature,” she explained. “Yes, in Colombia, an individual can ask for a change of gender for their official documents of identity, but there is still a large resistance against social justice reforms and education.”
Baptiste believes queer studies are integral to ecology because identity and relationships are a part of our living systems. Within her specialization in landscape ecology, Baptiste illustrates that the shape of the land, the expression of culture, and the relationship with nature are ever-changing and must be examined to be an acceptable representation of an ecosystem. She utilizes particular questions as examples for her inquiries: “What is a rainforest? What is the shape of the rainforest? What are the roles of the indigenous people?” With these thoughts in mind, she then looks through a queer and modernized lens. “The concept of sexual selection is a Darwinist myth, meaning social selection is the alternate hypothesis. The indigenous people are the authors of forests, planting for 3,000 years, but what with the change of infrastructure? The concept of identities breaking gender roles and reproductive expectations?” Baptiste speculated. She explained that the neurosexism involved in science displays social constructs supported by “scientific research,” which frame and define the behaviors and decisions of individuals without their conscious knowledge.
As Baptiste explained, eurosexism continues within degrading sexualities. She described the assumptive theory that heterosexuality is the only natural form of relationship, since it’s the means of reproduction. “This idea is not accurate by any means. The study of all sexual and nonsexual relationships are beneficial to ecological research,” Baptiste clarified. “Biodiversity needs a link between social pathos and environmental complexity.” With broader and more inclusive investigations of society and nature, Baptiste argued, scientists can more appropriately stabilize our communities with environmentalist legislature and take steps to conserving our environment.
Baptiste ended her lecture by citing the civil resistance in Colombia that resulted from the governmental attempt to include diversity within sex-education classes. “People said the state is threatening the church and destroying families when diversity is taught without patronizing its morals,” she said. “We live in wounded cultures, wounded lands, around wounded bodies. We need to rebuild kinships and extend our families. We need to express our different narratives for there to be any change.”