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Gender and Pan-Species Democracy in the Anthropocene

Strang, Veronica (2021) 'Gender and Pan-Species Democracy in the Anthropocene.', Religions, 12 (12).


There are diverse historical trajectories in human societies’ relationships with the nonhuman world. While many small place-based groups have tried to retain egalitarian partnerships with other species and ecosystems, larger societies have made major transitions. In religious terms, they have moved from worshipping female, male or androgynous non-human deities, to valorising pantheons of deities that, over time, became semi-human and then human in form. Reflecting Durkheimian changes in social and political arrangements, movements towards patriarchy led to declining importance in female deities, and the eventual primacy of single male Gods. With these changes came dualistic beliefs separating Culture from Nature, gendering these as male and female, and asserting male dominion over both Nature and women. These beliefs supported activities that have led to the current environmental crisis: unrestrained growth; hegemonic expansion; colonialism, and unsustainable exploitation of the non-human world. These are essentially issues of inequality: between genders, between human groups, and between human societies and other living kinds. This paper draws on a series of ethnographic research projects (since 1992) exploring humanenvironmental relationships, primarily in Australia, the UK, and New Zealand, and on a larger comparative study, over many years, of a range of ethnographic, archaeological, theological, and historical material from around the world. It considers contemporary debates challenging NatureCulture dualism and promoting ‘rights for Nature’ or—rejecting anthropocentricity to recognize an indivisible world—for the non-human communities with whom we co-inhabit ecosystems. Proposing new ways to configure ethical debates, it suggests that non-human rights are, like women’s rights, fundamentally concerned with power relations, social status, and access to material resources, to the extent that the achievement of ‘pan-species democracy’ and greater equality between living kinds goes hand-in-hand with social, political and religious equality between genders.

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Publisher statement:This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// 4.0).
Date accepted:30 November 2021
Date deposited:15 March 2022
Date of first online publication:06 December 2021
Date first made open access:15 March 2022

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