Inside the Milberg Gallery: The Aurat March and Environmental Justice
The following is the first in a series of inside looks at the current exhibition in Princeton University Library’s Ellen and Leonard Milberg Gallery at Firestone Library, “Records of Resistance: Documenting Global Activism 1933 to 2021.” Curated by Fernando Acosta-Rodriguez, Ellen Ambrosone, Will Clements, David Hollander, and Gabrielle Winkler, this new exhibition captures continuity and change in practices of protest and activism in diverse geographic contexts and around issues that may be particular to an area or of universal concern.
The following is authored by Ellen Ambrosone, South Asian Studies Librarian.
It is hard to miss news of the devastating flooding in Pakistan that hit the international media at the end of August. Images from space show that more than a third of the country is under water due to record monsoon rainfall that began in June and glacial melt from the Himalayas. More than a thousand people have lost their lives. Those in the immediate flood zones have lost their homes, their towns, their livestock, and their livelihoods, and many of those lucky enough to live outside the immediate area have not escaped the trauma of family members and friends being impacted afar.
Currently on display in the Milberg Gallery are a selection of posters related to the Aurat March (Women’s March) in Lahore, Pakistan. While none of the posters take on climate change directly, it would be an oversimplification to consider the Aurat March as a movement that is singularly focused on women’s rights. Instead, one could more accurately describe the Aurat March as a collective that works toward solidarity with all vulnerable peoples.
A glance at the manifesto for Aurat March Lahore 2020 captures a number of issues that the group considers integral to their platform for change, including environmental justice, economic exploitation, and state violence, among others. Under the heading “Environmental Justice”, they write:
We demand that our right to climate justice be protected and enforced;
We demand the devising and use of sustainable and equitable agricultural practices to protect against the destruction of forests, soils, water table, pollution, crop varieties and animal species. In particular, we demand effective food management to prevent shortages like the current wheat crisis which impact migrants, women and gendered minorities the most. Agricultural workers and peasants should have a direct stake in devising food practice and management. This involves moving away from water-intensive cash crops like rice, cotton and sugarcane to vegetables, pulses and husbandry;
We recognise that true climate justice involves the restructuring of the global economy, and not just the economy of Pakistan. It involves developed countries moving away from export of oil, cars and military equipment, which are particularly detrimental to countries like ours.
The manifesto pinpoints a web of structural antagonisms, including the practices of consumption by the Global North, that disproportionately disadvantages vulnerable groups. Indeed, despite emitting less than 1% of global CO2 emissions, Pakistan (and the region of South Asia) is at great risk for climate-change related disasters that include flooding, drought, and rising temperatures. A recent New York Times op-ed by Pakistani writer Fatima Bhutto tells readers “[...] you can call these people climate refugees. Remember that phrase. Your country will have them, too.”
The items related to global activism that currently populate the Milberg Gallery invite us to connect to our shared humanity, to consider the conditions that perpetuate injustice, to confront our deepest feelings of indignation, to reflect on how we may advocate for change, and to forecast a future of vulnerability.
Follow the efforts of Aurat March Lahore regarding the floods in Pakistan on Twitter @AuratMarch and on Instagram @auratmarchlahore. If you would like to donate to flood relief efforts, please consider the Edhi Foundation, whose teams are providing relief assistance including cooked food, dry ration packs, tarpaulin sheets, medical aid, and other non-food essential items. Scan the QR code below (flyer by Meher Ali, PhD candidate in History at Princeton University).
The exhibition will run from September 7 through December 11, 2022. It is open daily, Mon-Fri from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Guided tours are available. Please note Princeton University's current visitors policy.
Published September 13, 2022
Media Contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications