The Humanities Council’s Fall 2023 Gauss Seminars in Criticism presented a two-day visit with longtime teacher, activist, and writer Silvia Federici (Hofstra University, Emerita). Her visit, under the general title “Rethinking, Remaking a Feminist Agenda,” took place on October 24-25, 2023.
Federici’s visit began with a public lecture, which was titled “Feminism, Social Reproduction, and the Reconstruction of the Commons.”
Humanities Council Chair Esther Schor, John J.F. Sherrerd ’52 University Professor and professor of English, welcomed the overflowing crowd – of graduate students, faculty, staff, and University community members – to Betts Auditorium. Brooke Holmes, who began her tenure as director of the Gauss Seminars this year, introduced Federici.
“It is an especially great honor to welcome Silvia Federici to present the Gauss Seminars this year,” said Holmes, Susan Dod Brown Professor of Classics. “For over 60 years, [Federici] has woven together the roles of activist, organizer, teacher, writer, historian, and social theorist to reanimate continuously and reciprocally the critical and imaginative capacities of Marxism and feminism.”
Federici, professor of political philosophy and international studies, emerita, at Hofstra University, was among the founders of the International Feminist Collective, the organization that launched the Campaign for Wages For Housework in the US and abroad. She has been active in the anti-globalization movement and the anti-death penalty movement. In 1991, after a period of teaching in Nigeria, Federici also helped found the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa. Her most influential book, Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation, has been translated in more than 20 languages.
The lecture examined Federici’s work on the principle of the “commons” and “commoning,” referring to pooled resources and alternatives forms of social reproduction and knowledge-building. She highlighted feminist movements across the world who are at the forefront of reimagining community in a post-capitalist world through “commoning.”
Federici’s visit continued the next day with a lunch seminar, entitled “The Body as a Site of Resistance.” During the discussion, moderated by Holmes, she examined writings on the feminist politicization of the body and considered ways that “body politics” can enrich and reimagine the perspective of other important social justice movements.
The Gauss Seminars in Criticism was instituted in 1949 to provide a focus for discussion, study, and the exchange of ideas in the humanities. For upcoming events, including a Spring 2024 visit from artist and scholar Denise Ferreira da Silva, please visit the Humanities Council website.