Gender, empowerment, and hegemonic masculinity: analyzing social relations among cooperative recyclers in São Paulo, Brazil.




Nunn, Neil

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This project explores the gender relations among a group of recyclers belonging to a consortium of nine recycling cooperatives in the ABC region of São Paulo, Brazil. Employing a feminist geographical lens and participatory research methodologies I examine these uniquely gendered spaces. This thesis is divided into four sections. Each section is written in an attempt to improve understandings of the ways in which the spaces of the recycling cooperatives are gendered. In the first section I provide information that frames the thesis and the larger research project. I begin this section by providing a geographical and socio-economic overview of the region where the research took place. This is followed by a discussion of my research methodology, a literature review of the relationship between women, solid waste, and labour in Brazil, and a look at my reflexive positioning as a researcher on this project. Section two explores the relationship between gender, empowerment and equity among cooperative recyclers involved with this study. This section poses the question: in what ways has the recycling cooperative allowed for women to inspire personal and social change and have the power to influence the institutions that affect their lives? I argue that the recycling cooperatives involved with this study are spaces where individuals who have traditionally lacked access to power are granted the opportunities to empower themselves. Section three is about performed social relations, specifically the role of hegemonic masculinity in shaping gendered space within the recycling cooperatives. Drawing from qualitative research data, this section critically explores the deployment of power within the lives of the cooperative recyclers. First, I explore the concept of hegemonic masculinity, and suggest its importance for understanding gendered space. Second, I draw on my personal research experiences and qualitative data to provide a spatial examination of the most salient aspects of hegemonic masculinity in the lives of the female cooperative recyclers. Third, I support the notion that masculine domination is not something only established by men and designed to oppress women, but women themselves can construct and reinforce hegemonic masculinities. Section four concludes the study by highlighting apparent shortcomings of the research and implications for future research. Concerned with apparent contradictions between the arguments in sections two and three, I provide a discussion of the multiplicities of space and explain that such contradictions are inherent to the nature of social space. Following this I offer a critical self-reflection of my methodology were I discuss my complicity in reproducing gender binaries and post-colonial research practices.



Recycling Cooperative, Waste Management, post-structuralism, feminist geography