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Reading for Week 3

See the Readings page to download this week’s reading (Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici – pp. 7-38).

This book is a feminist perspective on the history of the transition from feudalism to capitalism.  Understanding this history is crucial for any radical practices today, because capitalist practices are constantly expanding and intensifying through processes of “primitive accumulation” – incorporating new communities, bodies, and territories.  By examining this transition as historically constructed, we can open up our imaginations for possibilities of change — against the view of capitalism and patriarchy as necessary.  This book shows how the history of capitalist development has been tied with the exploitation and disciplining of female bodies.  To make this argument, the book reveals parts of this history that have been omitted in dominant accounts: particularly the witch-hunts and discourses of demonization deployed against rebellious women, which resulted in the genocide of hundreds of thousands of women and the continued exploitation of billions.

Many of us will find parts of this book difficult, especially the specialized language from Marxist, feminist, and post-structuralist discourses.  To help us work through these tough concepts, I’ll post some explanations of them.  For now, I’ll link here to the wikipedia pages for a few key terms: primitive accumulation, labor-power, capitalism, Foucault (or Foucauldian)… more soon!

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