Tuesday, 2 February 2010

FEBRUARY's SCREENING - Part-Time Work of a Domestic Slave

At 56a Infoshop

Part-Time Work of a Domestic Slave
by Alexander Kluge, 1973 (91 mins)

Gelegenheitsarbeit einer Sklavin (German with English subtitles)

Roswitha (Alexandra Kluge) has been supporting her family, including her student husband, by performing illegal abortions. Police pressure makes it too dangerous for her to continue doing this, and her husband is forced to go to work in a factory. When she hears that the factory is about to be closed and moved to Portugal (an early example of a cheaper-labor move), she attempts to rally the workers of the factory....

The sixth feature film by Alexander Kluge, architect of the New German Cinema, is also one of his most remarkable. Once again, Kluge works with Godardian distanciation devices (voice-over commentary, intertitles) to playfully examine a social problem, specifically women's liberation. The director's sister, Alexandra, plays the titular domestic slave, a young housewife, mother, part-time abortionist, and would-be labor activist who is repressed by the strictures of family, society, and history.

Through the presentation of women in his films, Kluge hopes to present an alternative mode of production. This is based not on rationalised modes of industrial production that have come to govern our lives since the advent of the industrial and technological revolutions, but on a female productive force (not to be equated with pure biological reproduction). He believes this force is manifested by women in their constant struggle against patriarchal social and political structures such as archaic laws that effectively maintain control over, and attempt to contain and limit, women's bodies and desires. (18) Kluge's theorisation of a female productive force and his female protagonists, I believe, serve as a refreshing antidote to the dominant cinema's representation of active, desiring women as evil femmes fatales simultaneously desired and feared by men. Kluge's women possess agency as they playfully negotiate their own way through the public sphere on their own terms.

[From: http://archive.sensesofcinema.com/contents/directors/03/kluge.html]

Film Times: Doors open 5pm - All films begin at 5.30pm!!

56a Infoshop
56 Crampton Street
SE17 3AE

Suggested reading:

Extract from
Precarious Labor: A Feminist Viewpoint
by Silvia Federici

Feminists in the seventies tried to understand the roots of women’s oppression, of women’s exploitation and gender hierarchies. They describe them as stemming from a unequal division of labor forcing women to work for the reproduction of the working class. This analysis was basis of a radical social critique, the implications of which still have to be understood and developed to their full potential.

When we said that housework is actually work for capital, that although it is unpaid work it contributes to the accumulation of capital, we established something extremely important about the nature of capitalism as a system of production. We established that capitalism is built on an immense amount of unpaid labor, that it not built exclusively or primarily on contractual relations; that the wage relation hides the unpaid, slave -like nature of so much of the work upon which capital accumulation is premised.

Also, when we said that housework is the work that reproduces not just “life,” but “labor-power,” we began to separate two different spheres of our lives and work that seemed inextricably connected. We became able to conceive of a fight against housework now understood as the reproduction of labor-power, the reproduction of the most important commodity capital has: the worker’s “capacity to work,” the worker’s capacity to be exploited. In other words, by recognizing that what we call “reproductive labor” is a terrain of accumulation and therefore a terrain of exploitation, we were able to also see reproduction as a terrain of struggle, and, very important, conceive of an anti-capitalist struggle against reproductive labor that would not destroy ourselves or our communities.

How do you struggle over/against reproductive work? It is not the same as struggling in the traditional factory setting, against for instance the speed of an assembly line, because at the other end of your struggle there are people not things. Once we say that reproductive work is a terrain of struggle, we have to first immediately confront the question of how we struggle on this terrain without destroying the people you care for. This is a problem mothers as well as teachers and nurses, know very well.

This is why it is crucial to be able to make a separation between the creation of human beings and our reproduction of them as labor-power, as future workers, who therefore have to be trained, not necessarily according to their needs and desires, to be disciplined and regimented in a particular fashion.

It was important for feminists to see, for example, that much housework and child rearing is work of policing our children, so that they will conform to a particular work discipline. We thus began to see that by refusing broad areas of work, we not only could liberate ourselves but could also liberate our children. We saw that our struggle was not at the expense of the people we cared for, though we may skip preparing some meals or cleaning the floor. Actually our refusal opened the way for their refusal and the process of their liberation.

Once we saw that rather than reproducing life we were expanding capitalist accumulation and began to define reproductive labor as work for capital, we also opened the possibility of a process of re-composition among women.

No comments: