Networked Feminisms in the Time of COVID-19 - Reconnecting with the legacy of the witches

Author: Renee O'Shanassy

O'Shanassy, Renee, 2022 Networked Feminisms in the Time of COVID-19 - Reconnecting with the legacy of the witches , Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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Much has been written about the COVID-19 pandemic, including highlighting the exacerbation of gender inequalities. I argue in this thesis that the pandemic was both networked and gendered, consolidating existing trends surrounding the deployment of online technologies for social movements. The experience of the pandemic, I observe, leant on patriarchal capitalist logics that centre individual family life at the centre of society, behind the closed doors of which a gendered division of labour exists, upon which corporate and government policies rely. Owing to the particular nature of the pandemic, and its simultaneous reliance on the home as a safe haven, and on technologies, I argue that there is a need to better understand feminist mobilisations as a reaction and response to a long-term global reproductive crisis. I situate COVID-19 as a symptom and acceleration of this crisis. I draw on Silvia Federici’s work on the witch-trials, as the origin story of today’s gendered hierarchies between non-work and work. It is from this basis that I argue that the insights of Federici and others on social reproduction and the global social reproductive crisis are of particular relevance to understandings of the pandemic and how feminist movements.

The networked nature of the pandemic has served to deepen feminist online life, enabling feminists to reach each other through affective care bonds and solidarity, to respond to this immediate crisis. Through a reading of Federici’s own construction of a feminist commons as relational and revolutionary I articulate the online feminist commons as a framework to understand contemporary and future feminist movements. I outline three principles to construct the framework of the online feminist commons: autonomous and spontaneous gendered claims-making, affective bonds of care and solidarity; and transboundary responses to the social reproduction crisis. I utilise a series of examples, of local, regional and global feminist mobilisations during COVID-19, to point to the possibility of loosening movement building from geographical strictures and the potential of self reflexive engagement of difference online between feminists, to deepen affective care bonds and solidarity across difference. I am influenced by the Feminism for the 99% and transnational feminists, in this theoretical framework, to capture the complexity of relationships within and between feminist movements and feminists. The framework captures a pattern of commoning behaviour that is transboundary and complex, in conflict with global capitalist logics. Its enduring value is understanding contemporary and future networked feminisms as interconnected and complex social movements, which are autonomous, spontaneous, and bound by complicated interfaces of solidarity and affect.

Keywords: Feminism, Federici, feminist commons, feminist networks, feminist movements, cyber feminism, social movements, social reproduction, witches, affective care, solidarity, COVID-19, pandemic feminism, COVID-19 feminism, feminist internet

Subject: Women's Studies thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2022
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Dr Laura Roberts