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Unformatted text preview: [ Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 2009, vol. 35, no. 1] q 2009 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0097-9740/2009/3501-0001$10.00 S e e m a A r o r a - J o n s s o n Discordant Connections: Discourses on Gender and Grassroots Activism in Two Forest Communities in India and Sweden Winner of the 2009 Catharine Stimpson Prize I n 2005 Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and the issue of womens rights in environmental matters appeared briefly on the international agenda. In a joint article, Maathai and Lena Som- mestad, both active in the network of female environmental ministers, emphasized that womens interests must be taken into account when environmental policies are formulated (Sommestad and Maathai 2005). They position equality between men and women as a crucial development questionnecessary for effective and sustainable development, especially in poorer countries. The importance of gender equality and of the relationship between third-world women and the environment is evident. Development and a certain standard of welfare make these issues appear to be less urgent in a wealthier country such as Sweden. However, my research with womens groups in forest communities in India and Sweden showed otherwise. First, questions of gender and power in environmental management are relevant not only in a poorer country such as India but also in a richer country such as Sweden. In the latter they can take forms that make gender discrimination more difficult to contest. Second, development discourses about equality and empowerment of oppressed third-world women not only affect how gender equality is conceptualized and practiced in the I would like to thank Alison Wylie for helping me structure my arguments for this article and Louise Fortmann for all her support and important insights. For reading the draft at various stages and giving invaluable feedback, I would like to thank Stefan Jonsson, Mary John, Nivedita Menon, and the seminar group at the Centre for Gender Research at Uppsala University, especially Katarina Petersson for long-distance help with references. Thanks also to the Signs reviewers and the journal editors, who have helped to improve the manuscript with their questions and advice. 214 Arora-Jonsson global South but also shape the possibilities for gender equality in the North. Understanding how this takes place opens an opportunity for interruption in an order and in a space (a global/social order and a de- veloped and gender-equal space) that appears to have become narrower under the umbrella of development, welfare, and growth. It brings into question the category of development not only in a Southern but also in a Northern context, where the North, especially Sweden, is taken as a referent for development and gender equality....
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- Fall '09