In Chile, the extent of disparities is neither new nor surprising, and it was one of the issues raised and mobilised by millions of people who took the streets since the beginning of the social outbreak in October 2019. They have only deepened as a result of recent measures to contain Covid-19’s spread, particularly the lockdown, as many people have become unemployed either because of layoffs or because they work in the informal economy.
This precarious situation has promoted subsistence strategies based on social articulation. One of these initiatives is the case of the ollas comunes (“people’s kitchens” in English). These grassroots initiatives emerged from popular struggles and resistance to fight hunger during the dictatorship and state terrorism of the 1970s and 1980s. Their main aim is to try to cover the basic need for food for the most vulnerable. They are generally self-managed and independent and get their flood supplies through collection and donations. In the different historical moments in which ollas comunes have appeared, women have had a key role in sustaining the initiatives.
People’s kitchens constitute political spaces in the sense that they adopt ways of conceiving food preparation and distribution based on principles of solidarity and collectivity, enabling a space for rethinking the political potential of reproductive labour. Simultaneously, through their everyday practices and their collective and bottom-up response to the crisis, they problematise how the pandemic and its social consequences are managed under a neoliberal model.
Josefina Jaureguiberry Mondion is a DPhil student at the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford. (Image source: https://www.fondoalquimia.org/)
For more on Antipode’s “Conjunctural Insurrections” series – an experiment to amplify voices often unheard and invisibilised in politics, daily life, and academic discourse – see https://antipodeonline.org/2020/06/23/conjunctural-insurrections/