I have chosen to focus the thoughts I will develop today on a fact that I consider fundamental for every other discourse concerning women’s autonomy. That is: for women, in every part of the world, the construction of autonomy has meant first of all the re-appropriation of their body; it has meant to have the availability of that female body which has always been at stake in the relation between the sexes. This was true for us at the beginning of the ‘70s in Italy, as it was for the Mayan women when they began to draft their law, at the beginning of the ‘90s in Chiapas. To mention here and compare some aspects of our problematic and struggles on this terrain could be useful then in a battle that for us, as for them, as for many other women in many other countries, has reached important goals, but is far from being concluded. When I read the Revolutionary Law of the Mayan Women, I was struck by the very close correspondence between the demands presented in it, as well as the others that were being all along elaborated, and our own demands at the dawn of the 1970s. We, like them, had to unite as women in a movement in order to lift ourselves out of our pain and impotence. Impotence was the very problem we had witnessed in the lives of our mothers. It was the impotence due to the lack of money that made any choice, even running away from violent husbands or fathers, impossible. It was the impotence of not knowing our sexuality, which made marriages fail, but was beyond remedy as the counterpart were men who knew nothing about female sexuality1. And again the impotence of not being able to communicate, as it was a taboo to speak with other women of too intimate things; the impotence coming from the stigmatization of life outside of marriage, which forced our mothers to move, still very young, from the house of their father to that of their husband, without ever having a chance to find out who they were and what they wanted; the impotence of finding themselves mothers just nine months after their marriage, without ever having known themselves as women –-pre-matrimonial ‘virginity’ being a social imperative; the impotence of being subjected to violence in or out of the family, but not being able to speak about it, not to expose the family to a scandal and not to be guilt-tripped by other men, starting with the judges and the policemen; the impotence of being subjected to sexual harassment on the job, but not being able to afford to loose it. All these are issues that, despite great differences as far as social contexts and life conditions, stand out clearly in the demands and debates that are developing among Mayan women.
Our Story is Trauma In the fall of 2006, a man approached me in the late evening, shouted “CHINK!” and bashed my head open with a U-bolt bike lock. I was 23 years old at the time. I’m often tempted to consider this to be merely a case of Vincent Chin redux, since the circumstances of my assault—a young Asian-American victim, a stranger as the perpetrator, the trappings of a hate crime, the bludgeoning of the head—are remarkably similar, save one difference: Vincent Chin was killed, and I survived. The significance is not lost on me; indeed, with each day I may still write, still walk, still be present and sustain, the significance rarely ever escapes me. And yet, the more time passes and the more I dwell on it, the difference between Vincent and me—or Sean Bell, or Sanesha Stewart, to name a few—seems less and less apparent. For if Vincent had lived—lived in spite of a baseball bat cracking his skull half a dozen times, mind you—he would have surely found his resulting ‘life’ of exceeding trauma, fear, and despair to be questionable, at best. My own recovery, full of these miserable musings, has similarly made me wonder whether dying, as Vincent had, would have been preferable (i).
I see the students’ mobilization that has been mounting on the North American campuses, especially in California, as part of a long cycle of struggle against the neo-liberal restructuring of the global economy and the dismantling of public education that began in the mid-1980s in Africa and Latin America, and is now spreading to Europe—as the recent student revolt in London demonstrated. At stake, in each case, has been more than resistance to the “enclosure of knowledge.” The struggles of African students in the 1980s and 1990s were particularly intense because students realized that the drastic university budget cuts the World Bank demanded signaled the end of the “social contract” that had shaped their relation with the state in the post-independence period, making education the key to social advancement and participatory citizenship. They also realized, especially on hearing World Bankers argue that “Africa has no need for universities,” that behind the cuts a new international division of work was rearticulated that re-colonized African economies and devalued African workers’ labor.
Many if not most of the open spaces - commons, woods, greens - of any size that remain today in South London, or London as a whole, exist because they were preserved from development by collective action. Whether by rioting, tearing down fences & re-opening up enclosed land, or by legal agitation, much of the commons & parks that make life in the Smoke just about bearable wouldn’t be there if they hadn’t been actively defended.
Marx died over his chapter on class in volume III of Capital. The analysis of capitalism is with necessity a class analysis (Ritsert, 1988) and generations of Marxists have sought to supply the Marxist 'definition' of class. I use the term 'definition' here with critical intent. How might it be possible to define 'class' within a critical project which emphasises that theoretical mysteries find their rational explanation in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice (cf. Marx, 1975, p. 5)? The 'definition' of the working class would require at least one additional definition, namely that of capital representing the other side of the class divide. Marx's critique of political economy showed that definitions of capital are self-contradictory and tautological. Might definitions of the working class not suffer a similar fate?
The New Productivisms Translated by Nuria Rodríguez Marcelo Expósito The Russian Soviet revolutionary art produced between the 1910s and 1930s continues to exert a powerful influence on many aspects of our cultural models today. But historically, references to it have tended to oscillate between fetishising its formal inventions and either exalting or denigrating its idealism, which has been portrayed as totally unattainable voluntarism within a more global chimera (the revolution, represented in the image and likeness of a mythological monster that – supposedly – always ends up devouring its children). Likewise, certain dominant visions of the Russian Soviet avant-gardes have tended to stifle its event dimension – the potency of its emergence as a singularity and a difference that should not be reconciled with the stable continuum of both the history of art and mass politics. There has, furthermore, been a tendency to overlook the strong impact of said event beyond its historical bounds, in the many experiences that undertook to explore the political nature of art in subsequent decades, driven by a desire to embrace processes of profound social change.
48 Hours of Common Effort: How Cultural Workers and Political Activists Met and Talked The entire spectrum of problems connected with the condition of creative workers has recently become the focus of fundamental discussions and reflections on the part of the artistic community as well as a number of leftist political and social activists. These discussions have revealed points of convergence between creative workers and workers engaged in nonstandard forms of employment, which have become more and more widespread in Russia. The search for new ways of regrouping radical leftists, trade unions, and social movements makes new forms of dialogue possible. The 48-Hour May Congress-Commune of Creative Workers was the first initiative to task itself with tackling both theoretically and practically the host of problems connected with the nature of the work done by cultural workers and labor relations in the cultural field.
Creative Time in Common Prehistory Drift: Narvskaya Zastava (Saint Petersburg, 2004) Aside from researching the urban environment during a two-day walk around a chosen location, an important component of this project was the results of communication within the group, the personal lives of its participants, and the associations that arose in connection with the places that were researched. An objective mapping of the site was organized in parallel with the subjectivity of the community, which gained new experience by jointly living through a certain moment of time in an environment alien to it. The methods developed in Drift were a continuation of the Leningrad-Petersburg tradition of strolling around strange places. This culture is directed towards the experience of communities that are based on friendship and aspire to a reclaiming and détournement of urban space, thus demonstrating with their own experience the contrast between what life is and what it might be.
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