Workshop. Silvia Federici. October 10 – 13. 2011

Witch-hunting and the process of enclosure– of lands, bodies, and knowledges

Scholar, teacher and activist Silvia Federici will lead a workshop at the School of Walls and Space from Monday October 10 to 13.

Across four days we will – with Silvia as our guide – explore the connections between the witch-hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries with the formation of the wage laborer, tracing the continuity between those that are taking place today in Africa, India and other parts of the “third world” with the formation of an immigrant population, itself subject to a process of demonization throughout Europe.

The reading for this workshop has already been circulated, it is a requirement that all students (not enrolled at Walls and Space) wishing to attend register with Lena Rodgers and are familiar with Silvia’s book “Caliban and the Witch, Women the Body and Primitive Accumulation”.

The workshop will begin Monday October 10 at 10am, at the School of Walls and Space.

Silvia will also be speaking at the People’s House on the evening of Wednesday October 12. (Details to come).


Silvia Federici is a scholar, teacher, and activist from the radical autonomist Feminist Marxist tradition.[1] She is a professor emerita and Teaching Fellow at Hofstra University, where she was a social science professor.[2] She worked as a teacher in Nigeria for many years, is also the co-founder of the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa and is a member of the Midnight Notes Collective.[3]

Federici’s best know work, Caliban and the Witch: Women the Body and Primitive Accumulation expands on the work of Leopoldina Fortunati. In it, she argues against Marx‘s claim that primitive accumulation is a necessary precursor for capitalism. Instead, she posits that primitive accumulation is a fundamental characteristic of capitalism itself – that capitalism, in order to perpetuate itself, requires a constant infusion of expropriated capital.

Federici connects this expropriation to women’s unpaid labour both connected to reproduction and otherwise, which she frames as a historical precondition to the rise of a capitalist economy predicated upon wage labor. In association with this, she outlines the historical fight for the commons and the struggle for communalism. Instead of seeing capitalism as being a liberatory defeat of feudalism, Federici interprets the ascent of capitalism as a reactionary move to subvert the rising tide of communalism and to retain the basic social contract.

She places the institutionalization of rape and prostitution, as well as the heretic and witch-hunt, trials, burnings and torture at the center of a methodical subjugation of women and appropriation of their labor. This is then tied into colonial expropriation and provides a framework for understanding the work of the IMFWorld Bank and other proxy institutions as engaging in a renewed cycle of primitive accumulation, by which everything held in common from water to seeds, to our genetic code become privatized in what amounts to a new round of enclosures.

(This has been cut and pasted from Silvia’s Wikipedia entry.)

One comment

  1. A

    On gender and class. from the introduction to Caliban and the Witch p. 14: The analysis I propose allows us to transcend the dichotomy between “gender” and “class.” If it is true that in capitalist society sexual identity became the carrier of specific work-functions, then gender should not be considered a purely cultural reality, but should be treated as a specification of class relations.

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