U50 conference to look at mothering and the environment

Ecologist, author and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber will deliver the keynote address at the Association for Research on Mothering’s (ARM) 13th annual conference, Mothering and the Environment: The Natural, The Social, The Built, which runs from Oct. 22 to 25 in celebration of York’s 50th anniversary.

The conference will include over 150 papers and 45 panels, performances and workshops by about 250 international scholars, students, activists, environmental agencies and workers, environmental educators, artists and mothers.

Steingraber, an internationally recognized expert on the environmental links to cancer and human health, will present “The Environmental Life of Children: Effects of Endocrine Disruptors on Child Health and Mothering Practices”. Her new book, Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood, explores the intimate ecology of motherhood and the alarming extent to which environmental hazards now threaten each crucial stage of infant development. This is particularly important as, in the eyes of an ecologist, the mother’s body is the first environment for human life.

Right: Sandra Steingraber

Having Faith is a continuation of Steingraber’s first book, Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment, which presented cancer as a human rights issue. Living Downstream was the first book to bring together data on toxic releases with newly released data from US cancer registries.

Steingraber will speak on Thursday, Oct. 22, from 7:30 to 9:30pm in Lecture Hall A, Vari Hall, Keele campus. Tickets are limited. They can be purchased by visiting the ARM Web site or at the door for $20 plus GST & PST.

Professor Heidi Hunter of the State University of New York’s Stony Brook University, will also speak on Oct. 22, presenting “Contexts of Ecofeminism, Mothering and Pollution in Contemporary Film and Literature”, while Sherilyn MacGregor (PhD ’02) of Keele University in the United Kingdom will present “Care, Citizenship and Climate Change: New/Old Challenges for Ecofeminist Politics” on Friday, Oct. 23.

Mothering and the Environment: The Natural, The Social, The Built will cover a diverse array of crucial mothering issues as they relate to the environment, including maternal health issues, maternal environmental activism and global citizenship, sustainability and technology, mothering and environmental education, reproductive issues, breastfeeding and environmental toxins, mothers and social justice, mothering and HIV/AIDS, as well as environmental activism through the arts.

In addition to the main conference, there will also be an international embedded conference − A Motherworld is Possible: Two Feminist Visions: Matriarchal Studies & The Gift Economy − presented by the International Academy for Modern Matriarchal Studies & Matriarchal Spirituality (HAGIA) and the International Feminists for a Gift Economy network. The embedded conference will run from Oct. 23 to 25.

The embedded conference will feature panels and sessions with invited keynote speakers from all over the world, including: Professor Barbara Mann of the University of Toledo; Professor Pilwha Chang of Ewha Womans University in South Korea; Genevieve Vaughan of International Feminists for a Gift Economy; Heide Göttner-Abendroth of the HAGIA in Germany; Professor Valentina Pakyntein of North-Eastern Hill University in Shillong, India; and Agnes Fay Williams, a founding mother and advisory board president of the Indigenous Women’s Network.

Marina Meneses Velazquez, a municipal councillor for ecology for Ecológico Juchiteco in Juchitàn, Mexico, known as the city of women, will talk about her work, as well as the relationship between protecting the cultural archeological heritage on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, while still protecting the biodiversity. She was featured in the film Blossoms of Fire, which celebrated the lives of the Isthmus Zapotecs of southern Oaxaca, Mexico.

Sobonfu Somé, a lecturer, activist and author, and a voice of African spirituality in the West, will also speak at the embedded conference. She is the founder of Wisdom Spring, which fundraises for wells and schools in West Africa and is the author of several books, including The Spirit of Intimacy: Ancient Teachings in the Ways of Relationships and Welcoming Spirit Home: Ancient Teachings to Celebrate Children, and Community.

Professor Wahu Kaara will talk about her work. She is a former ecumenical coordinator for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, a Kenyan social activist and founding coordinator of the Kenya Debt Relief Network. She is also one of the 1,000 women nominated for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize and was the Dame Nita Barrow Fellow at the University of Toronto in 2008.

Topics in the Gift Paradigm section of the embedded conference include:

  • Mothering and Gift Economy
  • Gift or Exchange?
  • Indigenous Peoples and the Gift Economy
  • Generalizing Gift Giving
  • Gift Economy and the Environment
  • The Gift in Africa, Asia and the Arctic
  • Gift Economy, Feminism, Anarchy
  • Political Significance of the Gift

Topics in the Matriarchal Studies section of the embedded conference include:

  • Matriarchies as Mother-Centred Societies
  • Mothers in Indigenous Matriarchal Societies: Iroquois in the USA, Berber-Kabyle in North Africa, Palau in Micronesia, Khasi in India, Juchitecas in Mexico
  • Aspects of Matriarchal Spirituality: Andean Spirituality, Holy Birth in Ancient Greece, Mother and Daughter Star Constellations, World Icons of Mothers and Grandmothers
  • What Can we Learn from Matriarchal Societies?
  • Matriarchal Visions of a Future of Peace

Both the Mothering and the Environment conference and the embedded conference will take place at McLaughlin College, Keele campus. For more information or to register, contact Renée Knapp, director of marketing, at arm@yorku.ca. For the full programs of both conferences, online registration or information, visit the ARM Web site.