“A Right and a Great Need”:1 Food rights and praxis in Silesia, Poland

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter


The following case study is set in Poland. I introduce work conducted mostly by women, but also by men, who are engaged in the non-governmental organization, the Gliwice Chapter of the Polish Ecological Club in the Upper Silesian region of southwest Poland. Their activities connect the interrelated fields of food security, environmental management, and political engagement. The chapter considers how the activists’ own interpretation of rights and their strategies of resistance have developed the spaces of their political work across political and economic transition. I claim that the majority of women in the case study group is not coincidental, but based on their traditional roles forged out of claims for food, to feed, and to be fed as well as their networks of (mostly) women who work together and help each other in multiple spaces from kitchens to research laboratories (Bellows 1996; 1999; 2001; Van Esterik 1999). The chapter therefore does not claim that political labor on behalf of food and environmental rights is women’s labor. Rather, it asserts that the fact that there is a majority of women active in such social movements is not surprising, and even more importantly, that their presence substantively impacts the priorities and strategies for political activism. Because, however, these women work with men and because their own and their groups’ primary goals lie in broad community welfare, I argue that the gendered uniqueness of their political labors is neglected by women’s groups, environmental groups, food and agricultural research groups, and reigning political elites (women and men alike). The oversight of these characteristics results in the reification of social assumptions about a male gendered “nature” of political work and rights that are transacted in public. The multiple locations of the largely female activists’ work are not understood and are trivialized. The gendered and cooperative aspect of their social contributions remains invisible, rendering vulnerable the women’s own ability to claim access to political office and influence policy. An impractical outcome is that the neglect of gendered political work limits the possibility to replicate positive achievements in other communities. The discussion in this chapter attempts to identify some of the multiple spaces and mobile actors in this work in order to identify them in terms of gendered enactments of claims to rights and political labor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWomen and Citizenship in Central and Eastern Europe
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781351872393
ISBN (Print)9780754646624
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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