On the occassion of both Halloween and the book’s fifteenth anniversary, the Verso blog has organized a virtual roundtable on Silvia Federici’s masterpiece Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation (2014), with contributions from both thinkers and activists. One of the contributions comes from labor journalist Sarah Jaffe, who writes about how the spritual practices that Federici explored in her book are reemerging in anti-capitalist and anit-colonial movements today. Check out an excerpt from the piece below, or the full text here.
The witch, too, has a different relationship with the world, a relationship that is being explored and reclaimed by today’s climate activists. As Federici writes, the witch had a conception of nature that does not adhere to the mind/body matter/spirit separation but “imagined the cosmos as a living organism, populated by occult forces, where every element was in ‘sympathetic’ relation with the rest.” The witch-hunt, then, helped solidify a false distinction between man and nature, as “The world had to be ‘disenchanted’ in order to be dominated.” It is not surprising then to see new ritual, magical practices appearing in movements aiming to fight climate change—movements that are aiming to, to think alongside Federici, “re-enchant” our idea of the world. As Niki Seth-Smith wrote recently, movements like Extinction Rebellion have created new ritual practices to help people face “the existential challenges of climate collapse.”