Socialist Feminism Reading Group 🌹

December 16, 2018 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

The Festival Center | 1640 Columbia Rd., NW | Washington, DC 20009

Event Page: https://www.meetup.com/mdcdsa/events/250461046/

Please read our Socialist Reading Groups: Participation Guide (https://docs.google.com/document/d/16YKfMQwWe0yvM2i9VlWJRTvH_OGGJD3_3gLc6DYnpoY/edit?usp=sharing) {{under revision}} and join us as we explore and discuss topics within Socialist Feminism 🌹

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This month, our readings focus on the topic “Witchcraft from a Socialist Feminism Perspective.” Please click on the links below to access the documents {{.pdfs are in the process of being converted into Google docs for use with screen readers, thanks for your patience!}}.

**General content warning for this month’s readings: all the material on witch-hunts contains descriptions of assault and abuse, including torture. The Federici .pdf additionally contains some woodblock images of abuse, which we will not include in the Google doc.

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“Witch Hunts Today: Abuse of Women, Superstition and Murder Collide in India” (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/witch-hunts-today-abuse-of-women-superstition-and-murder-collide-in-india/), Seema Yasmin in Scientific American, 01-11-2018.

🔎“It’s an illusion, this Gujarat model of development,” Desai says. “What we’re actually seeing is inequality rising because the model boosted manufacturing in the cities while neglecting agriculture in the villages.” Chaudhuri argues the model completely excludes the communities where many of the women targeted in witch hunts reside, places like Dahod where poverty and sickness boil over into frustration and violence toward women.”

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Chapter 4 — “The Great Witch-Hunt in Europe,” pp. 163-206 — from Caliban and the Witch (https://libcom.org/files/Caliban%20and%20the%20Witch.pdf), Silvia Federici, 2009 reprint.

🔎Snapshot of the book’s thesis, from the Introduction (p. 12): “I have placed at the center of my analysis of primitive accumulation the witch-hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries, arguing that the persecution of the witches, in Europe as in the New World, was as important as colonization and the expropriation of the European peasantry from its land were for the development of capitalism.”

This chapter contains most of the book’s substantive discussion of what was actually prosecuted as “witchcraft,” who was prosecuted, by whom, and to what end. If you’re pressed for time, the first 4 sections of the chapter can stand on their own, and we’ve included 2 quick reads that can either complement or replace the last 2 sections — they spotlight impacts of the witch-hunts that are still being felt today:

🧙”Witch-burning Times and the State Initiative”: pp. 165-169
🧙”Devil Beliefs and Changes in the Mode of Production”: pp. 169-173
🧙”Witch Hunting and Class Revolt”: pp. 173-179
🧙”Witch-Hunting, Woman-Hunting, and the Accumulation of Labor”: pp. 179-186

🧙”Witch-Hunting and Male Supremacy: The Taming of Women”: pp. 186-192
🧙”The Witch-Hunt and the Capitalist Rationalization of Sexuality”: pp. 192-198
🧙”The Witch-Hunt and the New World”: pp. 198-200 ➡️consider “Why Young Culture Makers Are Proudly Reclaiming Bruja Feminism” (http://remezcla.com/features/culture/bruja-feminism-culture-makers-latinx/), Andie Flores in Remezcla, 03-01-2017. {{Note: embedded videos contain NSFW content}}
🧙”The Witch, the Healer and the Birth of Modern Science”: pp. 200-206 ➡️consider “What witches have to do with women’s health” (https://www.salon.com/2013/10/31/what_witches_have_to_do_with_womens_health/), Soraya Chemaly in Salon, 10-31-2013.

BONUS: Endnote 2 in the intro to Chapter 4 mentions feminist organizers adopting the witch as a symbol of revolt. There’s a cool, quick rundown on this in “How the Socialist Feminists of WITCH Use Magic to Fight Capitalism” (https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/yw3bpk/how-the-socialist-feminists-of-witch-use-magic-to-fight-capitalism), Gabby Bess in VICE, 10-02-2017.

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In place of Chapter 5 — “Colonization and Christianization” — we’ll read the shorter, standalone “Witch-Hunting, Globalization, and Feminist Solidarity in Africa Today” (http://www.commoner.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/federici_witch-hunt.pdf), Silvia Federici, 2008.

🔎”More than anywhere else, communalism has defined social life and culture in Africa, surviving into the 1980s and beyond, largely because in many countries land was never alienated even in the colonial period, though much was diverted to the production of cash crops. Indeed, Africa has long been viewed as a scandal by capitalist policy planners.… However, as the present witch-hunts indicate, African communalism is undergoing a historic crisis.”