HomeFrom cultural feminism to the ethics of care

HomeFrom cultural feminism to the ethics of care

From cultural feminism to the ethics of care

Du féminisme culturel à l’éthique du « care »

Theories and practices of ecofeminist art from the 1970s to the present

Théories et pratiques de l’art écoféministe des années 1970 à nos jours

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Published on Wednesday, April 12, 2023


À l’heure où les institutions culturelles commencent à mettre en lumière les préoccupations écoféministes dans l’art, il importe de revenir sur l’histoire de ces pratiques pionnières, d’interroger les cadres conceptuels qui ont pu influencer les démarches (spiritualité féministe, théorie du care, etc.) et de réfléchir aux formes artistiques nouvelles que prend le combat écoféministe au XXIe siècle. Dans cette perspective, cette journée d’étude entend réunir des historiens d’art, des chercheurs, mais aussi des critiques et des artistes, dans le but de définir plus précisément les contours d’une histoire de l’art écoféministe depuis les pratiques pionnières jusqu’aux formes les plus contemporaines. 


One-day conference organized on Friday, November 10, 2023 at the University of Grenoble Alpes.


Born at the turn of the 1980s in Anglo-Saxon countries, ecofeminism finds its origins in the numerous citizen mobilizations initiated by women activists in favor of the environment and multiple intellectual currents, among which the North American cultural feminism of the 1970s. It is precisely in the wake of this branch of feminism that the first artistic productions that explored the connections between women and nature appeared. As art historian Gloria Feman Orenstein pointed out, first-generation ecofeminist artists in the late 1970s focused on recalling the deep connection between women and "Mother Earth" Gaia, in an effort to rehabilitate and reexamine the values of a long and ancient "pre-patriarchal" tradition in which women lived in harmony with nature's cycles and with the earth's ecosystems. But these pioneering practices, often labeled “essentialism“, have been marginalized in art history - including by feminists themselves - which explains the absence of any real literature on the subject. From the 1980s onwards, however, artists have been less concerned with the recovery of a pre-patriarchal history and more concerned with healing the Earth. Closer to what is now called ecological art (Bénédicte Ramade), these practices focus on dialogue and collaboration with the regenerative cycles of nature in order to sustain life and the ecological balance of our Planet, whose integrity has been abused and damaged by patriarchal capitalist culture. 

We owe it to Gloria Feman Orenstein to have documented very early on the first realizations of ecofeminist art and to have highlighted its evolution.  It has become necessary to return today to these pioneer practices in order to renew the research and define more specifically the contours of a properly ecofeminist art. The desire to regenerate the Earth, to heal Gaïa, is indeed not fundamentally different from the curative dimension which characterizes the work of ecological artists (Bénédicte Ramade, Vers un art anthropocène, 2022). Should we then consider ecofeminist practices as a branch of this artistic movement or can we define criteria which are their own? In their fight against the logic of domination subjugating women as well as nature, ecofeminist artists seem indeed to go beyond a solely curative intention to a more profound reversal of modern thought and its underlying patterns of categorization. The values of care, defended in the works of a good number of artists concerned with renewing the bonds of solidarity, responsibility and interdependence towards the living, may then be considered one of the characteristic elements of ecofeminist art.

In the USA in the 1980s, at the very moment when Ronald Reagan's neo-liberal policies were challenging the Welfare State and celebrating a free-market society that had little respect for the natural and human resources on which it was based, the development of care theories made it possible to formulate the question of vulnerability, care, and attention to others and to our environment as a social and moral problem that could act as a counterpoint to Western rationalist and patriarchal traditions. How have artists taken up these ethical questions in order to promote another civilizational model? What are the privileged forms of experimentation and how can we explain the absence of critical discourse linked to these practices? Beyond the North American context, what about other geographical territories and the influence that ecofeminist artists have had on new generations?

As cultural institutions begin to highlight ecofeminist concerns in art (ecofeminism(s), 2020, Erben Gallery, New York; Earthkeeping/Earthshaking - Art, Feminisms and Ecology, 2020, Quadrum Gallery, Lisbon; ECOFeminism Festival, 2021, London; Reclaiming the Earth, 2022, Paris, Palais de Tokyo), it is indeed important to revisit the history of these pioneering practices, to investigate the conceptual frameworks that may have influenced these approaches (feminist spirituality, care theory, etc.), to reflect on the new artistic forms that have been developed and to reflect on the new artistic forms that the ecofeminist struggle is taking in the 21st century. In this perspective, this one-day conference intends to bring together art historians, researchers, but also critics and artists, with the aim of defining more precisely the contours of the history of ecofeminist art from its pioneering practices to its most contemporary forms.

The 20-minute interventions may be based on (but not limited to) the following themes :

  • The phenomenon of marginalization of ecofeminist art practices and essentialist critique
  • The battle of the imagination (critique of modern thought and dominant thinking)
  • The conceptual frameworks of ecofeminist art (cultural feminism, care ethics...)
  • The different trends (ecological art, ecofeminist art, care art)
  • From transnational to global: the internationalization and globalization of ecofeminist art (Spain, Latin America...)
  • The exhibition of ecofeminist art from the 1970s to the present (history, practices, specific models?)

Submission guidelines

Written in French or English, proposals should take the form of an abstract of 3000 signs, accompanied by a bibliography and a short biography, to the following address: art.ecofeministe@gmail.com

Deadline for submission of proposals: May 30, 2023

Response : June 30, 2023

Organizing Committee

  • Pascale Saarbach (Lecturer in Contemporary Art History, LARHRA, Grenoble Alpes University),
  • Alice Ensabella (Lecturer in Contemporary Art History, LARHRA, Grenoble Alpes University) 


  • Université Grenoble Alpes - 621 avenue Centrale
    Saint-Martin-d'Hères, France (38)

Event attendance modalities

Full on-site event


  • Tuesday, May 30, 2023


  • art, écoféminisme, féminisme culturel, éthique, care


  • pascale saarbach
    courriel : pascale [dot] saarbach [at] univ-grenoble-alpes [dot] fr

Information source

  • pascale saarbach
    courriel : pascale [dot] saarbach [at] univ-grenoble-alpes [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« From cultural feminism to the ethics of care », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, April 12, 2023, https://doi.org/10.58079/1axi

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