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Caliban and the Witch Roundtable,
27-10-2019, 01:41 PM
Post: #1
Caliban and the Witch Roundtable,
This October, Verso is hosting a roundtable on Silvia Federici’s incantatory and incendiary Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation (2004), inviting reflections from activists, writers, and scholars to discuss the provocations of Federici’s arguments on capitalism and colonialism, bodies and reproduction, race and slavery—and the powerful figure of the witch.
Witches are troublemakers.

Specifically, witches cause trouble for capitalism. When Silvia Federici wrote Caliban and the Witch, it wasn’t because witches were having a “moment” but to bring us a history braided into social movements around the world. Witches, she wrote, were “the heretic, the healer, the disobedient wife, the woman who dared to live alone, the obeah woman who poisoned the master’s food and inspired the slaves to revolt.” And the witch-hunts of a world coming under the domination of capitalism were part of the process of dispossession and accumulation, a process that Federici noted “was also an accumulation of differences and divisions within the working class, whereby hierarchies built upon gender, as well as race and age, became constitutive of class rule and the formation of the modern proletariat.”

While the actual practice of witchcraft isn’t the focus of Federici’s book, it is these days the focus of an increasing number of books, Instagram accounts, magazine articles, profiles, and podcasts. More to the point, today’s left movements are home to many who are reclaiming witchcraft, magic, and indigenous spiritual practices that capitalist imperialism attempted to stamp out. The collective practices of a new generation of young people—mainly women, queer-identifying people, and people of color—may or may not have much in common with the practices of people tortured and killed for witchcraft. That’s because, as Federici noted, the witch-hunts “destroyed a universe of practices, beliefs, and social subjects whose existence was incompatible with the capitalist work discipline, thus redefining the main elements of social reproduction.”

Malaya Davis is one of those people. We met when she was organizing with the Ohio Students Association after John Crawford III had been killed in an Ohio Walmart by the local police. I didn’t know at the time that she had just gotten her first tarot deck; she told me, “It was all around the same time that I was exploring my personal spiritual power, and exploring my personal political power.” Her spiritual practice was very personal at the time, she said, while her political work was incredibly public. The realization that the two were intimately connected came later: “I realized ‘we can't actually get the freedom that we want if we aren't free within ourselves.’ That looks like a lot of intentional decolonization, including our spiritual practices, including our practice to heal the trauma that's a result of the systems that we’re actively dismantling.”
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