Critical theory for pandemic times: The Arcane of Reproduction then & now

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Join foundational theorist Leopoldina Fortunati to discuss reproductive labour and why is it important for feminist politics today.

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A webinar convened by the Standing Seminar in Critical Theory, with support from the South West Doctoral Training Partnership, the University of Bath and the University of Bristol.

Main speaker: Leopoldina Fortunati (University of Udine)

Discussants: Katie Cruz (University of Bristol), Camille Barbagallo (University of Leeds)

On 8th March 2020, just days before the Covid-19 pandemic was declared, International Women's day once again saw mass feminist mobilisations that, via the lens of social reproduction and the feminist strike, linked gender, class and racial oppressions. Six months on, the Covid-19 pandemic and the movement for black lives have further highlighted the importance of feminist organising at these intersections. The pandemic has not only intensified the deep crisis of social reproduction that has made the feminist and social strikes strategic pillars of radical politics today. Moreover, they have made a new common sense of the importance of social reproductive work (now accurately termed ‘essential work’) and, crucially, of the heavily racialised, gendered and classed dimensions of the economies in which it is situated.

In this context, we are delighted to reschedule our celebration of the foundational work of Leopoldina Fortunati in elaborating social reproduction feminism, a major influence on the contemporary feminist strike movement. Fortunati will join us in discussion with Katie Cruz and Camille Barbagallo.

Fortunati began her activism in the context of workers' struggles in the 1960s and 1970s in Italy and was a key member of the feminist movement for Wages for Housework. She then authored the classic book The Arcane of Reproduction: Housework, Prostitution, Labor and Capital (1981), and, with Silvia Federici, Il Grande Calibano: Storia del corpo sociale ribelle nella prima fase del capitale (1984).

Katie Cruz is a senior lecturer at the University of Bristol. Her research focuses on Marxist feminist theory and the legal regulation of sex work.

Camille Barbagallo is a feminist activist and researcher. Her research, situated within Marxist feminist theory, explores how the reproduction of labour-power is valued, what it costs, and who pays the bill. She is co-editor of Commoning with George Caffentzis and Silvia Federici (Pluto, 2019) and editor of Women and the Subversion of the Community: A Mariarosa Dalla Costa Reader (2019).

Following the panel’s contributions, we will open the virtual floor to audience questions and comments. These can be submitted live on the day, or in advance to

To register for this event, please use the button above. Registrants will receive instructions for joining the event by email closer to the time.

Convenors: Lorenzo Feltrin, Maud Perrier and Josie Hooker


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