The 2018 Antipode AAG Lecture – “Between the Wage and the Commons: Directions for a New Feminist Agenda” by Silvia Federici

The 2018 Antipode AAG Lecture

Between the Wage and the Commons: Directions for a New Feminist Agenda

Silvia Federici (Hofstra University, New York)

The 2018 Antipode AAG Lecture will take place on Wednesday 11th April between 5:20pm and 7:00pm in Galerie 1 on the 2nd floor of the Marriott French Quarter (555 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70130). The Lecture will be followed by a drinks reception sponsored by Antipode’s publisher, Wiley. It will also be recorded and made available online after the event as part of our Antipode Lecture Series collection.

Reflecting on the objectives of the 1970s international campaign for wages for housework, Silvia Federici examines the main changes that have occurred in the organization of reproductive work during the last four decades and the struggles that women worldwide are making to resist the destruction of their social and ecological environment and construct a more just and cooperative society.

Silvia Federici is Professor Emerita of New College, Hofstra University. Born in Italy, Silvia travelled to the US in 1967 to pursue an MA and PhD at SUNY Buffalo. As well as teaching at Hofstra and the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria, she co-founded the International Feminist Collective (and related Wages for Housework [WfH] campaigns) in the 1970s and the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa in the 1980s, and has been involved in the Midnight Notes Collective and its publications through to the 2000s.

Silvia is well known as a Marxist feminist theorist, activist and scholar. Her books Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation (Autonomedia, 2004) and Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle (PM Press, 2012) have become touchstones for students of the history and present condition of capitalism, the contested boundary between waged and unwaged work, and radical political strategy more broadly.

Caliban and the Witch has been translated into several languages: its core argument, that “capitalism has been able to reproduce itself … only because of the web of inequalities that it has built into the body of the world proletariat”, makes clear that hierarchical social difference is the very DNA of capitalist accumulation, upending liberal and class-in-the-last-instance arguments to the contrary. Although the project leading to the book began in the mid-1970s, it has been central to 21st century debates about so-called primitive accumulation. Its enduring significance is all too evident today as bald racism and sexism become markers of a “zombie neoliberalism” and simultaneously targets of renewed anti-racist, feminist movements.

Revolution at Point Zero is a collection of essays spanning Federici’s remarkable career as a Marxist feminist intellectual, bringing together almost 40 years of work on the refusal and valorisation of reproductive labour, enclosure and colonisation, and practices of creating commons. The problematic of unpaid work (and thus the household, or “point zero”) runs like a red thread throughout, powerfully demonstrating that “the obstacle to revolution is not the lack of technological know-how, but the divisions that capitalist development produces in the working class”. This basic division–between paid and unpaid work–articulates with myriad histories and constructions of difference, and must be central to any project either of resistance or radical emancipation.

The New York Wages for Housework Committee, 1972-1977: History, Theory, and Documents (Autonomedia, 2017), a collection of essays and movement documents edited by Federici and Arlen Austin, gives long-awaited access to earlier pieces on the WfH movement–writing that will no doubt speak clearly to the current conjuncture, a moment in which “the precarisation and even disappearance of many forms of waged work and the growing reproductive crisis … is forcing us to rethink the home and the neighbourhood as terrains of struggle and political re-composition”. Federici’s scholarship and activism pushes her readers to embrace a politics that centres “the transformation of our everyday life and the creation of new forms of solidarity”. Such a commitment could not be more timely.

As an introduction to Prof. Federici’s 2018 Antipode AAG Lecture, we have made three sets of recent papers available to readers without a subscription. Together they reflect themes germane to her work, and will, we hope, offer a primer or further reading to her lecture. Many thanks from everyone at Antipode to Silvia for agreeing to join us in New Orleans, and to Wiley’s Anna Potter for all her help with the lecture and virtual issue.

Andy Kent (Antipode Editorial Office) and Marion Werner (University at Buffalo, SUNY)

February 2018

The Papers – Set I

Keywords: co-ops; community gardens; race, gender and class; community economies; identity politics and solidarity; opportunities for and threats to autonomous movements; neoliberal cooptation; self-reliance; “DIY”; prefigurative politics; alternatives in/against/beyond capitalism

“We will not perish; we’re going to keep flourishing”: Race, Food Access, and Geographies of Self-Reliance

Ashanté M. Reese (2018)

Navigating the Fault Lines: Race and Class in Philadelphia’s Solidarity Economy

Craig Borowiak, Maliha Safri, Stephen Healy and Marianna Pavlovskaya (2017)

Communal Performativity—A Seed for Change? The Solidarity of Thessaloniki’s Social Movements in the Diverse Fights Against Neoliberalism

Lavinia Steinfort, Bas Hendrikx and Roos Pijpers (2017)

Strategizing for Autonomy: Whither Durability and Progressiveness?

Shaun S.K. Teo (2016)

Contesting Neoliberal Urbanism in Glasgow’s Community Gardens: The Practice of DIY Citizenship

John Crossan, Andrew Cumbers, Robert McMaster and Deirdre Shaw (2016)

Beyond Tragedy: Differential Commoning in a Manufactured Housing Cooperative

Elsa Noterman (2016)

Pursuing Urban Commons: Politics and Alliances in Community Land Trust Activism in East London

Susannah Bunce (2016)

Set II

Keywords: the differential value of labours; care work; feminist activism; the state and gender; women’s bodies; vulnerability; justice and care in the city; the marginalisation of women; state terror; women’s social movements; social inclusion; “development” and social reproduction; feminist political economy; intersectionality

The Abstraction of Care: What Work Counts?

Caitlin Henry (2018)

Feminism from the Margin: Challenging the Paris/Banlieues Divide

Claire Hancock (2017)

Bodies That Walk, Bodies That Talk, Bodies That Love: Palestinian Women Refugees, Affectivity, and the Politics of the Ordinary

Ruba Salih (2017)

Care-full Justice in the City

Miriam J. Williams (2017)

Epistemological Ignorances and Fighting for the Disappeared: Lessons from Mexico

Melissa W. Wright (2017)

Working for Inclusion? Conditional Cash Transfers, Rural Women, and the Reproduction of Inequality

Tara Patricia Cookson (2016)

Feminist Forays in the City: Imbalance and Intervention in Urban Research Methods

Brenda Parker (2016)


Keywords: gendered and racialised dispossesssions; “waste”; the depletion of social reproduction; households and communities; settler colonialism; enclosure and commoning; “security” and discourses of masculinity/femininity; precarious populations; subaltern citizenship and space-making; re-appropriation and resistance

Dispossession and the Depletion of Social Reproduction

Bina Fernandez (2018)

Enclosures from Below: The Mushaa’ in Contemporary Palestine

Noura Alkhalili (2017)

Making Space for Energy: Wasteland Development, Enclosures, and Energy Dispossessions

Jennifer Baka (2017)

Gendering Palestinian Dispossession: Evaluating Land Loss in the West Bank

Caitlin Ryan (2017)

Submergence: Precarious Politics in Colombia’s Future Port-City

Austin Zeiderman (2016)

Gramsci and the African Città Futura: Urban Subaltern Politics From the Margins of Nouakchott, Mauritania

Armelle Choplin and Riccardo Ciavolella (2017)