“Just Do It! Bodies and Images of Women in the New Division of Labor”
“Representation needs to be contextualized from several points. The representation of texts and images does not reflect the world as a mirror, mere translation of its sources, but is rather remodeled, coded in rhetorical terms. (…) Representation may be understood as a visible formal ‘articulation’ of social order “.
Griselda Pollock, Vision and Difference, 1994
WORK> NON WORK: REDEFINITIONS FROM FEMINISM
“What do you do? What is your occupation?” Although every day we all reply quite easily to this apparently simple question, if we stop and carefully think what is our interlocutor demanding, we conclude that, in fact, what he/she really wants to know is the job we have or the activity or activities we make for a living and does not expect us at all to enumerate the wide range of actions, relations and productions that we unfold throughout the day.
Defining work and its limits in abstract terms at the present time, where the times and locations of production became blurred and extended, is not an easy task. However, experiencing its consequences on our bodies seems to be less complicated, especially if we consider a definition of work that goes beyond the economistic view (whether neoclassical or Marxist) and, especially, if we understand our sustainment of a daily life and our daily incorporation of personalities and social actions as spaces and (re)productive efforts. Everything that tires, that occupies, that disciplines and stresses our body, but also everything that constructs it, that takes care of it, that gives it pleasure and maintains it, is work. Read more…
Precarious Lives, 43 min, 2008.
A film by Joanne Richardson and Andreea Carnu (RO/USA).
An experimental documentary mixing archival footage of female labour over the past century with 10 portraits of Romanian women working in different jobs and in different countries today. The film seeks to challenge the dominant discourse about precarity (and about the precariat as the new proletariat) and the fact that it ignores differences based on gender, limited mobility, and the first and third worlds of Europe.
1. dependence on chance circumstances beyond control, inability to plan one’s life
2. living without material or psychological security, stability and predictability
3. the widespread condition of flexible, intermittent, short-term and part-time work that characterizes post-Fordist capitalism?”(quote from the beginning of the film)
“As a noun, precarity does not exist. It is an adjective, modifying subjects, changing through circumstance. To understand what it means to be precarious, we must invert the theory, taking our own lives as a point of departure. To walk the streets that bring us together, and the routes that sometimes divide us. And while walking, to ask questions” (quote from the ending of the film)
Precarias a la Deriva, “Close encounters in the second phase: The communication continuum: care-sex-attention”
“Close encounters in the second phase: The communication continuum: care-sex-attention”
Precarias a la Deriva
Nov. 2003 [link]
Ya, desde el famoso 11 de setiembre
Ya, en una guerra global permanente
Yo, que vivo en guerra cotidianamente
Yo salgo a las calles y digo que NO!
(to strike in A major, to the tune of “Yo te amo con la fuerza de los mares”)
POINT OF DEPARTURE
In the months that followed the “Grand Show” of December of 2002, we began to give shape to what all of us understood as a second phase in our exploration of women’s precarious work. Some moved to other places and no longer shared the day to day of Precarias in Madrid, others joined the group or proposed particular initiatives: the publication of a text in a book or a web page, participation in a conference, collaboration in a video, or else accompanied us in organizing processes or in a mobilization. This coming and going makes room for a mode of networked cooperation which is not so much about belonging, in this case to the group of Precarias, as it is about opening a field of communication and fluid action – sometimes perhaps too diffuse – which we hope will become a means of constructing a new space of aggregation: the Laboratory of Women Workers. Read more…
Provisional European lexicon for free copy, modification, and distribution by the jugglers of life by some precarias a la deriva
Translated by Franco Ingrassia and Nate Holdren.
April, 2005 [Link]
Precarization of existence
In order to overcome the dichotomies of public/private and production/reproduction, and to recognize and give visibility to the interconnections between the social and the economic that make it impossible to think precariety from an exclusively laboral and salarial point of view, we define precarity as the set of material and symbolic conditions that determine a vital uncertainty with respect to the sustained access to the essential resources for the full development of the life of a subject. Read more…
“Preguntas para Precarias”
Precarias a la Deriva
How do (if at all) strains of theory (the Situationist theory of the derive, the work of Negri and Hardt) inform the work of Precarias?
Obviously, we’ve read a few things. But this doesn’t mean that we’re reading theoretical work and then looking for ways to put it into action: quite the contrary. We found ourselves in a certain situation and began to look for ways to understand it and intervene in it, and to the extent that other thinkers can provide us with tools or inspiration, we look to them. Mustn’t forget that any theory worth its salt is written as a tool for action in a specific context and moment. As for the influence of particular strains, I’d say we’re pretty eclectic: whatever seems useful. A lot of feminists, some operisti, some urban studies and an ongoing dialog with a number of other groups working on ‘activist research’ (like Situaciones in Buenos Aires). I don’t know if you can get your hands on the book Nociones Comunes but in the introduction the editor (Marta Malo, one of the Precarias girls) writes a very nice genealogy of influences; maybe I can get you a copy (in spanish, haven’t translated it yet) Read more…
“First Stutterings of ‘Precarias a la Deriva’”
Precarias a la Deriva
April, 2003 [Link]
Trabajo flexible ¿Es que somos invisibles?
Trabajo inmaterial ¡Ay que estrés mental!
Trabajo de jornalera ¡Eso es la repera!
(Little song by Precarias a la Deriva in the General Strike of 20 June 2002)
Precarias a la deriva (Precarious women workers adrift) is a collective project of investigation and action. The concerns of the participants in this open project converged the 20th of June 2002, the day of the general strike called by the major unions in Spain. Some of us had already initiated a trajectory of reflection and intervention in questions of the transformations of labor (in groups such as ‘ZeroWork’ and Sex, Lies and Precariousness, or individually), others wished to begin to think through these themes. In the days before the strike we came together to brainstorm an intervention which would reflect our times, aware that the labor strike, as the culminating expression of a process of struggle, was unsatisfactory for us for three reasons: (1) for not taking up –and this is no novelty- the experience and the unjust division of domestic work and care, almost entirely done by women in the ‘non-productive’ sphere, (2) for the marginalization to which both the forms of action and the proposals of the strike condemn those in types of work –ever more common- which are generally lumped together as ‘precarious’ and (3) for not taking into consideration precarious, flexible, invisible or undervalued work, specifically that of women and/or migrants (sexual, domestic, assistance, etc.). As a friend recently pointed out in the context of the more recent ‘political’ strike against the war (April 10, 2003), “How do we invent new forms of striking when production fragments and dislocates itself, when it is organized in such a way that to stop working for a few hours (or even 24) does not necessarily effect the production process, and when our contract situation is so fragile that striking today means risking the possibility of working tomorrow?” Read more…
“Precarious Changes: Gender and Generational Politics in Contemporary Italy”
Feminist Review 87 (5–20), 2007. [PDF]
The issue of a generational exchange in Italian feminism has been crucial over the last decade. Current struggles over precariousness have revived issues previously raised by feminists of the 1970s, recalling how old forms of instability and precarious employment are still present in Italy. This essay starts from the assumption that precariousness is a constitutive aspect of many young Italian women’s lives. Young Italian feminist scholars have been discussing the effects of such precarity on their generation. This article analyses the literature produced by political groups of young scholars interested in gender and feminism connected to debates on labour and power in contemporary Italy. One of the most successful strategies that younger feminists have used to gain visibility has involved entering current debates on precariousness, thus forcing a connection with the larger Italian labour movement. In doing so, this new wave of feminism has destabilized the universalism assumed by the 1970s generation. By pointing to a necessary generational change, younger feminists have been able to mark their own specificity and point to exploitative power dynamics within feminist groups, as well as in the family and in the workplace without being dismissed. In such a layered context, many young feminists argue that precariousness is a life condition, not just the effect of job market flexibility and not solely negative. The literature produced by young feminists addresses the current strategies engineered to make ‘their’ precarious life more sustainable. This essay analyses such strategies in the light of contemporary Italian politics. The main conclusion is that younger Italian women’s experience requires new strategies and tools for struggle, considering that the visibility of women as political subjects is still quite minimal. Female precariousness can be seen as a fruitful starting point for a dialogue across differences, addressing gender and reproduction, immigration, work and social welfare at the same time. Read more…
María Isabel Casas-Cortés, “Towards a Theory of Care / Hacia una Teoria del Cuidado: Ethnographic Accounts of Changing Political Subjects and Strategies”
“Towards a Theory of Care / Hacia una Teoria del Cuidado: Ethnographic Accounts of Changing Political Subjects and Strategies” 1
María Isabel Casas-Cortés
Chapter 7, Social Movements as Sites of Knowledge Production: Precarious Work, the Fate of Care and Activist Research in a Globalizing Spain. Dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2009. [PDF]
Shortly upon our arrival to the Lavapies neighborhood, and after attending a couple of meetings organized by Precarias, I received a mysterious email in my inbox:
Precarias a la Deriva ha Muerto, Viva Precarias a la Deriva!
Precarias a la Deriva is dead, long live Precarias a la Deriva!
(email on PD list-serve, March 15th 2007)
The “death notice”, as they called it, explained the transition period that Precarias was at the time going through. Since 2006, this feminist project engaged in a new experiment under the name of “Agencia de Asuntos Precarios”. Under this institutional sounding name -Agency of Precarious Affairs-, they made an attempt to formalize many of the relationships, resources and knowledges gained during the previous research phase. The Agency has currently an office space available every Saturday afternoon at Embajadores Street, a few blocks down from the previous squatted building that had to be evicted by order from the Madrid municipality. The new locale of Eskalera Karakola, the mythical women’s social center, is now located right across the street from Traficantes de Sueños, the alternative bookshop and publishing house, close to the local fresh food market, the muslim mosque and one of the libraries of the Universidad Nacional a Distancia, itself located in an old monastery destroyed during the Spanish Civil war.2 The new Eskalera Karakola, in contrast to the previous old building, is rented at an affordable price from the municipality and after a process of re-construction, now has a contemporary look, with a large meeting room, a radio studio, telephone line and a series of archives and basic technological support.3 Having this space available regularly and open to the public, makes this phase more prompted to act locally. This is in contrast with the previous phase, in that even if that phase had been a place-based research project, their material and effects ended up being more internationally oriented than expected. In this sense, La Agencia might be thought of as part of “the current process of territorialization of global justice movements” – meaning a tendency towards local concerns and organizing at the level of the lived territory, shared by many global justice initiatives at least in Europe (interview with MayDay Sur organizer, April 2008). Read more…
“Spain: 2002 General Strike – Feminist Perspectives”
Amaia Pérez Orozco
November 2002 [link]
On 20th June the fifth general strike in Spain since the restoration of democracy in 1977 took place. It was organised by the two main Spanish trade unions (CCOO and UGT) and other minor ones, in response to the approved governmental decree RD-L 5/2002 “Reform of the protection of unemployment and the basic law on employment”, approved in the 27th May with the only favourable votes of the governing People’s Party . This strike led to the reversal of some of the most criticised points of the new law and in that sense was quite successful. But diverse and seemingly contradictory positions within feminism arose in the debate. For some feminist groups one of the major impacts of the general strike was highlighting the lack of a unitary and coherent discourse and thus the need to start a process of reflection and discussion.
The evolution of economic policy in Spain has not differed from the global trend towards freer markets, progressive privatisation and decreasing Welfare State provisions. Among those increasingly deregulated markets is the labour market (national labour markets, but not international ones, where more restrictive migration rules are being established; Spain is relentlessly playing its role of gatekeeper of the “nearest to Africa European door”!). So more precarious and unsafe forms of contracting have emerged, dismissals have been facilitated and became cheaper, unemployment protection has been weakened, and general social protection has been damage. Through this long ongoing process five general strikes have been organised: 20th June 1985, 14th December 1988, 28th May 1992, 27th January 1994 and 20th June 2002. Only the second of the first four strikes achieved its goals, namely reversing the Plan for Youth Employment, the defining features of which were nevertheless approved some years later The last one was the first against a conservative government, while the others occurred under a socialist one. It occurred in a context of progressive erosion of remunerated workers’ rights, some of them sanctified by the agreements reached between the Government and the two largest unions. Thus, although the decree was what triggered the protests, other events such as unpopular changes of the educational system and financial scandals within state agencies meant that the climate was already created for popular unrest. Read more…
“Flexible girls. A position paper on academic genderational politics” 
María Puig de la Bellacasa
Luisa Passerini, Dawn Lyon, Liana Borghi (eds.) 2002, Gender studies in Europe/Studi di genere in Europa, European University Institute, Universita di Firenze, in association with ATHENA [PDF]
This paper is based on my intervention during the roundtable Transitions and Transmissions: two-way traffic at the conference Gender Studies in Europe the 2nd April 2001 at the European Institut, Firenze. I would first like to comment on this title, chosen for the discussion by one of the organisers, Dawn Lyon. These preliminary notes mark the paper thoroughly.
The idea of a “two way traffic” going on between generations responds to a certain kind of time trade familiar to the feminist genderational  politics I have had the occasion to experiment. The conference gave good examples of this: on the one hand, ‘baby-boomers’ foot-note with humour their re-affirmation of personal-political engagement as ‘maybe old-fashioned’; on the other hand, ‘twenty-thirty somethings’ supposedly less politicised or at least politically different, paradoxically also claim this engagement, driving back in a two-way traffic flow. I will come back to this (mis)understandings and (un)coincidences between genderations’ engagements.
Secondly, the title could also signify our times, specially the assumption that we live in a back and forth flowing world, where boundaries are difficult to draw, and power relationships (too?) complex to be tracked. We live in the middle of a process, struggling to build meanings for extremely fast changing realities. As a white western privileged city woman, fast ongoing traffic appears to me as a recognizable image for this accelerated and fluid existence, constantly needing ‘stress management’ and ‘adaptability’. Madonna’s ‘material girl’ better be today a ‘flexible girl’. This contribution will address critically this ‘flexible paradigm’. Read more…
“Women’s Autonomy and Remuneration for Care Work in the New Emergencies”
Mariarosa Dalla Costa
This paper has been presented at the international Conference on: “La
autonomia posible” (The Possible Autonomy). Universidad Autonoma de la
Ciudad de Mexico, October 24-25-26, 2006. It has been translated from Italian into
English by Silvia Federici.
Every construction of autonomy has its own history that evolves in a specific context
and must face specific obstacles and battles. Yesterday I mentioned the first stages of
this history through the initiatives of that feminist movement in which I directly
participated—initiatives necessary for women to regain the availability of their body.
I have also recalled how, on a planetary level, this battle is far from being concluded.
Here I would like to consider other aspects of this history, starting again from the
initial moments of that political experience, to assess what is the relation between
women and autonomy today with respect to some emergent problems, and also to
ask, in relation to the latter, what has happened to both the demand that housework
(or care work) be remunerated and to women’s economic autonomy. Read more…
“A Very Careful Strike – Four hypotheses.”
Precarias a la Deriva
Translated by Franco Ingrassia and Nate Holdren.
Feb. 2005. [PDF]
We are happy to present here a translation of an article by the Precarias a la Deriva, a militant research collective based in Madrid, Spain. We have translated the title of the piece as “A Very Careful Strike.” The title of the piece, “Una huelga de mucho cuidado” is a pun in Spanish, and as such is difficult to render into English. It means, at the same time, something very carefully done, something dangerous (something around which one should take care), as well as referring to the proposal of a strike by those who carry out both paid and unpaid caring labor. Read more…
“Precarious Labor and Reproductive Work”
excerpt from “Precarious labor: A feminist viewpoint” lecture 
Another criticism I have against the precarious labor theory is that it presents itself as gender neutral. It assumes that the reorganization of production is doing away with the power relations and hierarchies that exist within the working class on the basis of rage, gender and age, and therefore it is not concerned with addressing these power relations; it does not have the theoretical and political tools to think about how to tackle them. There is no discussion in Negri, Virno and Hardt of how the wage has been and continues to be used to organize these divisions and how therefore we must approach the wage struggle so that it does not become an instrument of further divisions, but instead can help us undermined them. To me this is one of the main issues we must address in the movement. Read more…
“Adrift through the circuits of feminized precarious work”
Precarias a la deriva
Precarias a la Deriva, A la deriva por los circuitos de la precariedad feminina. Madrid: Traficantes de Sueños, 2004.
Synopsis: we are precarious. Which is to say some good things (accumulation of diverse knowledges, skills and abilities through work and life experiences in permanent construction), and a lot of bad ones (vulnerability, insecurity, poverty, social exposure). But our situations are so diverse, so singular, that it is difficult for us to find common denominators from which to depart or clear differences with which to mutually enrich ourselves. It is complicated for us to express ourselves, to define ourselves from the common ground of precariousness: a precariousness which can do without a clear collective identity in which to simplify and defend itself, but in which some kind of coming together is urgent. We need to communicate the lack and the excess of our work and life situations in order to escape the neoliberal fragmentation that separates, debilitates and turns us into victims of fear, exploitation, or the egotism of ‘each one for herself.’ Above all, we want to enable the collective construction of other life possibilities through the construction of a shared and creative struggle.
-From the invitation to participate in the first derive, October 2002. Read more…