• 11Nov

     

     

    “One lesson we can learn from the return of witch-hunting is that this form of persecution is no longer bound to a specific historic time. It has taken on a life of its own, so the same mechanism can now be applied to different societies, wherever there are people in them that have to be ostracized and dehumanised. Witchcraft accusations, in fact, are the ultimate mechanism of alienation and estrangement, as they turn the accused – still primarily women – into monstrous beings dedicated to the destruction of their communities, thereby making them undeserving of any compassion and solidarity.” (p.82)

     

    Part Two is a sombre read. Federici documents the current resurgence of witch-hunting in Africa. No longer can we see it as a historic period at the time of the development of modern capitalism in 16th and 17th centuries but a phenomenon which is occurring, not only in Africa but in many countries in South America as well as India.

    Federici acknowledges that male violence against women has been historically taking place for centuries as a reflection of patriarchy. Violence, at the least, legitimized by the State, if not actively encouraged.

    As she has argued in Part One, Federici’s thesis is that such violence was bolstered by the persecution of women as witches. It led to:

    • • “confinement of women in Europe to unpaid domestic labor”
      • “legitimated subordination to man in and beyond the family”
      • “state control over reproductive capacity” (p.47)

    Violence against women has escalated in recent times. Federici cites evidence of an increase in the number of women murdered, resulting in the new term ‘femicide’. Violence against women has become normalized. This has been particularly true for countries rich in natural resources and where the anti-colonial struggle has been strongest.

    For example, in Mexico hundreds of women have disappeared and in Latin America, the kidnappings and murders of women occur on a daily basis.

    She argues that this is a result of new forms of capitalist accumulation involving:

    • Land dispossession

    • Destruction of communitarian relationships, and

    • Intensification in the exploitation of women’s bodies and labor.

    “In other words, new violence against women is rooted in structural trends that are constitutive of capitalist development and state power…” (p.47)

    The increase in violence against women is also a response to the activism of the 1960’s and 1970’s where struggles against colonialism and racism, and the resurgence of the women’s liberation movement were apparent. Capitalist patriarchy needed to consolidate their power against such struggles.

     

    Make no mistake, Federici takes very specific aim at ‘Big Business’ and perceives the increase in violence against women as an ‘institutional attack’ by the World Bank, United Nations, the International Monetary fund, governments and mining and petroleum companies. These are the masterminds of economic and social policies that are aimed at controlling women through the use of violence.

    She cites examples of where they have been responsible for economic policies which have destroyed local economies, creating debit crises and economic recovery models which have resulted in brutal austerity regimes and stripped governments of decision-making power. (p. 61)

    “Women’s integration in the global economy is violent” (p.54)

     

    “My thesis, in other words, is that we are witnessing an escalation of violence against women, especially Afro-descendant and Native American women, because ‘globalization’ is a process of political recolonization intended to give capital uncontested control over the world’s natural wealth, and human labor and this cannot be achieved without attacking women, who are directly responsible for the reproduction of their communities.” ( p. 50).

     

    The question is then why the attack on women. One major reason is that women is their capacity to keep their communities together, their responsibility for the reproduction of their communities and their defence of non-commercial concepts of security and wealth.

    For example, attacks have been levelled at trading women, female village traders who return the money they earn to the local economy, whereas male business men more interested in the export/import trade, and “…who look at the world market as their economic horizon.” p.76

    “…the battle is being waged on women’s bodies, because women are seen as the main agents of resistance to the expansion of the cash economy, and, as such, as useless individuals, selfishly monopolizing resources that the youth could use.” (p.75)

     

    Both in India and Africa, women have traditionally had access to communal lands and subsistence farming. This adds nothing to capital accumulation. Capitalists perceive land as a “dead asset” unless it is “legally registered and used as collateral to obtain bank loans.” (p. 52.)

    Thus women lose the ability to do subsistence farming and are coerced into dependence on their husbands working in commodity production thus devaluing women.

    “By witch-hunting I refer to the recurrence of punitive expeditions by young, male vigilantes or self-appointed witch finds often leading to the murder of the accused ad the confiscation of their property.” (p.60)

     

    Federici goes on to cite figures:

    • 3,000 women in Ghana have been exiled to ‘witch camps’

    • Between 1991-2001, 23,000 ‘witches’ have been killed in Africa.

    These witch hunts operate with little or no consequences. They are likely to arise where there is conflict over land, where there are economic competitiveness and to justify the enclosures of communal lands. (p.61).

    “But the attack on women comes above all from capital’s need to destroy what it cannot control and degrade what it most needs for its reproduction” (p.88)

    Influences which have led to the return of witch-hunting have included the “disintegration of communal solidarity, due to decades of impoverishment, and the ravages of AIDS and other diseases…” (p.52)

    Federici describes the increase in witch-hunting as being more likely to occur in areas where commercial projects are being planned, or land is being privatized.

    Sex trafficking is also on the increase, as a result of unemployment, precarious work and the collapse of the family wage.

    “More convincing is the view that these witch hunts are not a legacy of the past but are a response to the social crisis that the neo-liberal restructuring of Africa’s political economies have produced.” (p.65)

    Federici argues that feminists globally must raise awareness of modern- day witch-hunting and the increased violence against women in these countries where globalisation and the accumulation of capital is aimed. However, she urges that feminists need to investigate this phenomenon in the context of the social conditions that create witch-hunts.

     

    “The forces that are instigating the African witch hunts are powerful and will not easily be defeated. Indeed violence against women will end only with the construction of a different world where people’s lives are not ‘eaten up’ for the sake of accumulation of wealth.” (p.80)

One Response

  • Thank you for raising this issue of women being accused of being, and killed for being witches. Hopefully your work will encourage more exposure of this excuse to murder women in the many countries that this is happening.

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