Witch Hunting And Capitalist Development, Past And Present – Silvia Federici

Long time feminist activist and teacher, Silvia is co-founder of the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa and the RPA (Radical Philosophy Association) Anti-Death Penalty Project. She teaches International Studies and Political Philosophy at Hofstra University. Federici’s published work includes: Enduring Western Civilization: The Construction of the Concept of Western Civilization and its ‘Others’ (editor) and A Thousand Flowers: Social Struggles Against Structural Adjustment in African Universities and most recently the excellent Caliban and the Witch: Women the Body and Primitive Accumulaution. Silvia Federici is also speaking at Witches 3.

Why have witch-hunts historically occurred in societies that were moving from a subsistence based economy to one based on monetary relations? What is the connection between witch-hunting and the development of capitalism? And who were the witches? What threats did they pose in the eyes of their persecutors? This talk looks at these questions, mostly focusing on the 16th and 17th -centuries witch-trials, but also making comparisons with the witch-hunts that in recent years have taken place in some African countries. It shows that the capitalist reorganization of social reproduction requires a true war against women, in that it devalues women’s labour, deepens the divisions between women and men, and clashes with women defense of communal relations and resources.

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