My goal in this forum essay is to brush the dust off Claude Meillassoux’s (1981) magnum opus, Maidens, Meal and Money, by demonstrating its relevance for the present day. While Meillassoux wrote primarily about precapitalist agricultural communities, he had sketched on their basis a model of social reproduction that incorporates social investments and powers, and he foregrounded the hierarchical and exploitative reproductive orders by which capitalism sustains accumulation. In the context of a renewed interest by feminist scholars in questions of social reproduction, I argue that the analytical tools developed by Meillassoux are at least as helpful in making sense of the age of financialization.
Tania Murray Li
In this essay I briefly explore three themes I find important for an engaged anthropology of development. First, social reproduction: Anthropologists have a long track record of examining processes of social reproduction—how it is that particular patterns of inequality are actively sustained through practices and relations at multiple scales (Smith 1999).
Formative Experiences and Identity in Peasant Childhood
In this article I explore the meaning of work for girls in rural northeastern Argentina as formative experience that forges their identity as peasants in the contemporary world. Based on ethnographic research conducted from 2008 to the present in rural areas of San Ignacio (Misiones), I examine, from the perspective of regulatory definitions regarding children’s work, the ways in which young girls gradually participate in the social reproduction of families. Girls’ participation in these activities should not be romanticized as part of a socialization process, but, rather, critically considered as formative experience in which class, age, gender, and ethnic distinctions define certain tasks as girls’ peasant skills. Using data from participant observations made on three farms, I show how girls have an active role in the appropriation of knowledge through shared activities with boys, although such learning is overshadowed by the prevailing socio-historic construct of male dominance.
Pauline Gardiner Barber
This article addresses the politics of class, culture, and complicity associated with Philippine gendered-labor export. Several examples drawn from multisited ethnographic research explore two faces of class: migrant performances of subordination contrasted with militancy in the labor diaspora. With few exceptions, the literature on Philippine women in domestic service has emphasized disciplined subjectivities, the everyday dialectics of subordination. But class is also represented in these same relationships, understandings, and actions. Alternatively, the political expressions of Philippine overseas workers, and their supporters, is a feature of Philippine migration that is not often mentioned in writing concerned with migrant inequalities. This article proposes a reconciliation of these two faces of class expression by exploring how new media, primarily cell-phone technologies, enhance possibilities for organized and personal resistance by Filipino migrants, even as they facilitate migrant acquiescence, linked here to gendered subordination and class complicity, in the contentious reproduction of the migrant labor force.
Women, inequality, and social reproduction
This article offers a critical ethnography of the reproduction of elites and inequalities through the lenses of class and gender. The successful transfer of wealth from one generation to the next is increasingly a central concern for the very wealthy. This article shows how the labor of women from elite and non-elite backgrounds enables and facilitates the accumulation of wealth by elite men. From covering “the home front” to investing heavily in their children’s future, and engaging non-elite women’s labor to help them, the elite women featured here reproduced not just their families, but their families as elites. Meanwhile, the aff ective and emotional labor of non-elite women is essential for maintaining the position of wealth elites while also locking those same women into the increasing inequality they help to reproduce.
Catherine Butler, Karen Anne Parkhill, Fiona Shirani, Karen Henwood and Nick Pidgeon
It is widely recognized that a major challenge in low carbon transitioning is the reduction of energy consumption. This implies a significant level of transformation in our ways of living, meaning the challenge is one that runs deep into the fabric of our personal lives. In this article we combine biographical research approaches with concepts from Bourdieu's practice theory to develop understanding of processes of change that embed particular patterns of energy consumption. Through an analysis of “case biographies” we show the value of biographical methods for understanding the dynamics of energy demand.
The Global Idea of 'the Commons'
Donald M. Nonini
What is now at stake at this point in world history is control over ‘the commons’—the great variety of natural, physical, social, intellectual, and cultural resources that make human survival possible. By ‘the commons’ I mean those assemblages and ensembles of resources that human beings hold in common or in trust to use on behalf of themselves, other living human beings, and past and future generations of human beings, and which are essential to their biological, cultural, and social reproduction.
The Analytical Contribution of Marxist-feminism
Matthew J. Smetona
Contemporary social and political theorists generally recognise that Marx and Engels’ critical analysis of capitalist society centres on the production of value through the production of things. However, what is often unrecognised in considerations of Marx and Engels is how their analysis is based on the interrelation of production and reproduction. Nevertheless, the implications of this interrelation for feminist critique are explored in the writings of Marx and Engels only tangentially. These implications are developed from Marx’s analysis by Leopoldina Fortunati and Silvia Federici into a singular synthesis of the Marxist and feminist modes of critique. This development deserves greater recognition, and this essay will seek to articulate how the social implications of this interrelation (1) are expressed to a limited extent in the classical texts of Marxism and (2) are developed by Fortunati and Federici into the analytic framework of social reproduction as the core of Marxist-feminist revolutionary struggle.
Environmental social scientists should analyze ideologies that reproduce ecologically unsustainable societies through the method of ideology critique. Ideology refers to ideas and practices that conceal contradictions through the legitimation and/or reification of the social order. Ideology critique is a method that allows the researcher to unmask systemic contradictions concealed by ideology. While the primary purpose of this project is to revisit and revise conceptual and methodological tools for the environmental social sciences, I provide examples of ideologies that may aid in the reproduction of the “treadmill of production” or the expansionistic production cycle that accelerates resource use and pollution.
The Construction of a Shrine in Postwar Kosovo
Anna Di Lellio and Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers
The site of an infamous Serb massacre of a militant Albanian extended family in March 1998 has become the most prominent sacred shrine in postwar Kosovo attracting thousands of Albanian visitors. Inspired by Smith's (2003) 'territorialization of memory' as a sacred source of national identity and MacCannell's (1999 ) five-stage model of 'sight sacralization', this article traces the site's sacred memorial topography, its construction process, its social and material reproductions, and adds a sixth stage to the interpretation - the 'political reproduction'. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, the commemorative literature emanating from this shrine and on numerous interviews with core protagonists (including former guerrilla) and visitors, the article explores the ways in which the religious themes of martyrdom and sacrifice, as well as traditionalist ideals of solidarity and militancy, are embodied at the site and give sense to a nation-wide celebration of ethno-national resistance, solidarity and independence.