'Embroidering resistance: Daily struggles of women affected by the Baixo Iguaçu Hydropower Dam in Paraná, South Brazil,' by Tamara Rusansky


Based on a research journey in collaboration with a Brazilian social movement, the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), this Research Paper explores the experiences of resistance of women whose lives were flooded by the Baixo Iguaçu Hydropower Dam in Paraná, South Brazil. Dominant development narratives promote hydropower dams as a sustainable source of energy in Brazil, while silencing the voices of those inhabiting the affected lands, and underestimating the social and ecological destruction that large dam projects provoke. Drawing from feminist political ecology, decolonial theory and Latin American political ecology, this research examines how women in Baixo Iguaçu who were affected by the construction of a dam on their rural lands embroider their embodied, emotional and daily resistance. Guided by ‘arpilleras’ – embroideries that women organized in the MAB create to narrate their silenced stories – and drawing from conversations and in-depth interviews, this research brings their voices to the centre. Collectively, women in the MAB apply the language of arpilleras to a popular education feminist methodology, transforming sewing into politics. In Baixo Iguaçu, women affected by the dam struggle daily against displacement, the flooding of their territories, the destruction of their communities and care networks, the violent stigmatization of their political engagement, and their exclusion from spaces of negotiation and decision-making, among others. I suggest that arpilleras are an alternative language through which women express their knowledges, emotions and experiences otherwise. Arpilleras grow into a political strategy that uses art: a strategy for widening women’s political participation, for creating collective identity, and for building counter-hegemonic narratives. These narratives rise up to challenge the dominant energy development model that transforms women’s rivers and bodies into commodities.

Keywords: Dams, women, MAB, Baixo Iguaçu, Brazil, resistance, arpilleras, embroidery, hydropower development.

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