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Women's Cotton and the Spaces of Gender Politics in Northern Co^te d'Ivoire

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This article seeks to contribute to the gender and 'development' literature by showing how gender struggles over women's economic autonomy from cotton growing are played out at multiple geographical scales. The main argument is that 'men' and 'women' do not simply negotiate over cash cropping within the household. Women in particular find it necessary to 'jump' the scale of the household in order to secure productive resources for cash cropping. Drawing upon the notion of 'scalar politics,' this article illuminates the multiple processes and scaled spaces in which women's economic autonomy expands and contracts around the cultivation of cotton. It is inspired by feminist political ecological approaches to examine how the micro-politics of gender interact with meso- and macro-level agroecological and political economic processes affecting women's poverty and empowerment. Based on longitudinal research in northern Côte d'Ivoire, it shows how women of different sociocultural and economic standing negotiate access to productive resources at multiple scales, and how some men seek to restrict these initiatives. As women search for solutions to contradictions in gendered social relations of production, at different geographical scales, they have simultaneously dispersed the site of gender struggles to other locations (the marketplace and women's personal fields). Male household heads now find it necessary to contest women's cotton growing in these gendered spaces in their attempt to control their wives' labor.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2002

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