Feminist Struggles over Social Reproduction: In the Squares and Beyond

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Hörsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Janet CONWAY, Brock University, Canada
Elise THORBURN, Brock University, Canada
A new wave of democratic movements has emerged globally to challenge both authoritarianism and austerity, and the connections between them. Women and feminist issues have been central to these struggles (Moghadam, 2013; Potuoğlu-Cook, 2015). Social reproduction has formed a particular strand of feminist activism within these movements. Social reproduction refers to the unpaid activities associated with family and societal maintenance – procreation, socialization, and nurturance – as well as paid work in social sectors such as health care, education, childcare, and social services (Bezanson and Luxton, 2006; Ferguson, 2008; Federici, 2012). Socially reproductive work was visible in the squares movements in their focus on daily maintenance of life through food provisions, shelter, security, and childcare (Brown, et al. 2013; Feigenbaum, 2014).

Feminist contestations over social reproduction recognize that socializing reproductive work is an essential starting point for women’s participation in the public sphere. However, it is also central to the more egalitarian gender orders and democratic social orders. Politicising social reproduction forces a larger conceptualization of both the political and the economic, and can provoke a rethinking of the core democratic demands of anti-austerity movements. Social reproduction is central to women’s participation, to their democratic voice, but is also central to the content of democracy.

Since the squares movements of 2011 feminist initiatives in Spain centring social reproduction have proliferated, all with historical lineages to earlier feminist struggles. Through an empirical study of these initiatives, we seek to understand to what extent socially reproductive practices in the squares were sites of feminist contestation and have precedents in women’s movements prior to the square, how they persist beyond the square in time and space, and how such practices impact feminist struggles over citizenship and political subjectivity.