August 2, 2021

“Our body is a reservoir of know-how, of resistance”

By Valentine Faure

Posted today at 05:01

Silvia Federici est “One of the most influential feminist thinkers of the last century”, wrote the New York Times in a long portrait dedicated to him, in February. After a year of confinement, the issue of domestic work, one of his favorite subjects, had come back to the fore, highlighting the persistence of the immense disparity between men and women.

In 1972, Federici co-founded the International Feminist Collective and opened the New York branch of the “Wages for Housework” movement, at a time when feminism was more focused on access to work. job. Her work has demonstrated the invisibilization, in Marxist theory, of the reproductive work of women, yet at the base of the creation of value – thought by Marx as a natural function.

Professor at Hofstra University in New York State, Silvia Federici has written Caliban and the witch. Women, body, and primitive accumulation (Entremonde, 2014), a rereading of the history of capitalism from the witch hunt, “As important for the development of capitalism as the colonization and expropriation of the European peasantry”.

In his work Beyond the boundaries of the body (Divergences, 2020), she analyzes contemporary discourses around the question of the body, caught between a biological reading, the performative turn coming from gender and the desire for transformation made possible by technology. At 78, she “Reflects on the lessons to be learned from the past”. In this interview at World, Silvia Federici defends a materialist perspective – “Changing our bodies, regaining control of our sexuality and our reproductive capacity means changing our material conditions of existence” – and invites to politicize motherhood, long left in the blind spot of feminism.

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“The body is in our path whenever it comes to social change,” you write. You criticize contemporary discourses on bodies for not taking sufficient account of the economic forces at work.

There is no social policy that does not have repercussions on our bodies. The body is continuously transformed, inscribed, formed by work, by the inequality of social policies, the food we eat, the anxieties we experience. It is not the same to walk calmly down the street or to be constantly anxious. There is no doubt that the body is today at the heart of scientific, political and disciplinary discourses which have undertaken, in their respective fields, to redefine its main qualities and capacities.

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