Social Change

My understanding of social change is linked to having grown up in post-independence India. However, as a biologist for years I refused to allow myself to be ‘distracted’ by social and political issues; I kept my attention firmly focused on antelope and deer with the requisite ‘scientific distance.’ It was after years of fieldwork and graduate training that I came to understand that “theory” are critical feminist analyses are central to my work, politics, and life.
The impulse to “do good” through “development” or “feminisms” or applying "theory to practice" is a good starting point, many of these impulses are problematic at best and dangerous at worst. For example, most development interventions, including those promoted through Clark’s IDCE department (where I taught from 2012-2013) reinforce and replicate capitalist relations of power, and gender, colonial modes of knowledge. 
To me, social change means engaging in the collective and political task of reconceptualizing new and just ways of engaging each other and the non-human world. While implicit within the notion of social change is the promise of something better for “humanity,” the task is neither technical nor innocent. In modern history colonialism, third world nationalisms, (post-World War II) developmentalism, Nazism, and socialism are among the endeavors launched to bring about social change through the application of science and reason. These endeavors have had checkered or disastrous consequences and raise questions about how the promises of doing good bear out in practice. Indeed, the civil rights, women’s rights, indigenous rights, labor rights, and environmental movements (among others) sought to redress the broken or unmet promises of prior attempts. Current movements for social change, including anti-racist, anti-imperialist, anti-sexist, feminist, developmental and environmental struggles bear the legacy of past ones and require (a) understanding the functioning and implications of existing arrangements of power and politics in specific contexts, and (b) imagining and constituting alternative and just society-nature relations.