Wed, Jan 27 at 7:30 p.m. | 75 minutes
Courses: Participants will be able to engage on their own time with the pre-recorded lectures and curated materials (readings, podcast links, interviews, and film). These will be used as the fuel for the live Zoom discussions with the professor.
During this pandemic, the government failed catastrophically to meet people’s basic needs. Instead, we had to learn to take care of ourselves and our communities (think community fridges, pantry deliveries, GoFundMes). This course explores essential questions: Why do governments fail to provide for us during crises? In the absence of state and private sector’s response, how can we better care for our communities? In face of ruthless capitalist exploitation, what are other forms of community care we can look towards?
The essential, daily tasks we do to ensure we and others stay alive , such as cooking, laundry, socializing, raising children, are referred, in Marxist feminist theory, as the activities of Social Reproduction. These tasks have been performed traditionally by women for low or no wages and can be very particular, like food access, or very broad, like cultural (re)production. Social reproduction theory has divided these tasks into three sectors: housework, food, and housing.
Who’s responsible for taking care of us? The responsibilities of social reproduction are shared among individuals, families, the state, and the private sector. When one or more of those actors are unable to reproduce (or provide the conditions for reproduction), we experience a crisis of social reproduction. For example, the state retracting from its social-welfare role leads to a crisis of social reproduction for working parents, who rely on the state for childcare assistance. Since the transition to capitalism, social reproduction has been historically neglected, and today, we are experiencing an acute crisis.
This OlioCourse, will go in-depth on three different ‘crises’ of Social Reproduction: housework, food, and housing. We’ll look at why the state and private sector fails us, and the responsibilities of social reproduction fall on individuals. We’ll also explore how people have organized out of crisis, collectivized their efforts, and pushed back against scarcity. Our six sessions will help us recognize the symptoms of crisis, and work towards solutions that don’t further legitimate state failure.
Weeks I & II - Housework
Housework is the ground zero for feminist social reproduction literature. It’s the place where much of our reproductive energy (eating, resting, socializing, raising children) occurs yet is uncompensated and unaccounted for. In this session we’ll review both contemporary and historical examples of housework-in-crisis, learn from examples of resistance, and co-create some of our own.
Weeks III & IV - Food
How do we know when our food system is in crisis? This section will cover food-as-social-reproduction, as well as food as the groundwork for collective action. So many popular responses to oppression are centered around food access. In this session we’ll discuss why that is, and how hard it can be to separate a collective, revolutionary food response from reformist, palliative measures. What can food in crisis and resistance tell us about how we value collective projects generally?
Weeks V & VI - Housing & Workshopping Solutions
We’ll end our time together circling back to the home, but more specifically, access to the places we reproduce. The privatization of housing inevitably creates a housing crisis, which becomes more apparent in eras of financial decline and organized abandonment by the state. This final session will look at the many ways housing is approached as a social reproduction concern, from aesthetics and planned communities to organized neglect. Like the other sessions, we’ll cover the myriad of ways people have collectivized housing in our own city and beyond. Finally, we’ll reflect on our time together by asking: how do we make these collective solutions actionable? We will go over some of the amazing efforts of mutual aid during the pandemic as a blueprint for ways we can help each other, right now.
Lauren Hudson is a peer educator with the Cooperative Economics Alliance of New York, an organization that she and other collective members of SolidarityNYC, a solidarity economy advocacy collective, co-founded. In addition to her organizing work, she is a recent PhD in Earth and Environmental Sciences at the CUNY Graduate Center and an adjunct in Africana Studies at CUNY’s John Jay College.
Zoom link will be sent upon signup.