A Queer Home in the Midst of a Movement? Occupy Homes, Occupy Homemaking

Jaleel, Rana

"...this essay considers how Occupy’s initial experiments in collective living in tandem with ongoing antiforeclosure and other housing actions, might repoliticize questions of who may have access to housing through a dedicated and intentional reconceptualization of what makes a home. I suggest that the day-to-day life of the encampments, through its insistence on an ethics of care for all who cared to dwell within it, began, although ultimately neglected, to create a queer politics of home that should nevertheless be nurtured within current post-encampment Occupy movement endeavors.
To do so, I draw on radical left scholarship and praxis, typified by the work of Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, and the Midnight Notes Collective, that promotes the concept of 'the commons' as a unifying tenet for a spectrum of contemporary social movements. Broadly writ, the notion of the commons revivifies a historical current that in Silvia Federici’s summation offers 'a logical and historical alternative to both State and Private Property, the State and the Market, enabling us to reject the fiction that they are mutually exclusive and exhaustive of our political possibilities.' I also follow Federici in thinking of 'the ‘commoning’ of the material means of reproduction [as] the primary mechanism by which a collective interest and mutual bonds are created'—a view that declines to parse the creation of the commons from the organizations of work, production, and social reproduction that give rise to it. Federici and allied scholars, in other words, understand the gendered work of social reproduction—from biological reproduction and childcare to subsistence farming and housekeeping—as subtending the social divisions of labor under capitalism; thus, efforts to reorganize reproductive labor must not be negated or derided, but rather 'revolutionized, […] revisited, and revalorized.'
In this essay, however, I also rely on recent queer scholarship and activism on neoliberalism, belonging, and kinship—including the work of Lisa Duggan, David Eng, Elizabeth Freeman, and organizations like Queers for Economic Justice and FIERCE—to bring queer analyses and activism to bear on the rhetoric of 'families' and 'home' that surrounds most housing initiatives. Queer scholarship and activism position the private structures of home, the ties of kinship and family (homemaking), as necessarily enmeshed in and sustained by racialized global circuits of labor and exploitation—evidenced, for instance, by the Global North’s reliance on the Global South’s domestic and reproductive labor, in nannies and adopted babies."


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Periscope: Is This What Democracy Looks Like?

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Academic Units
Center for Digital Research and Scholarship
The Social Text Collective
Published Here
October 8, 2013