This paper provides a reconsideration of social reproduction in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Social reproduction, defined as the activities that regenerate life, has long been central to materialist feminism. Building on a long genealogy of struggle, in recent years feminist movements from Argentina to Italy, have made visible the continuous devaluation of gendered and racialized reproductive labour under neoliberal capitalism. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, social reproduction and care have been widely used for highlighting the value of life-making activities including healthcare and education, as well as the stark care inequalities along the axes of gender, race, class, age and geography. Social reproduction theorists, however, often tend to sidestep the ecological dimension of reproduction that the pandemic has brought into relief. This paper argues that the Covid-19 pandemic demands a reconsideration of reproduction and care in two distinct ways. First, by considering the nexus between the appropriation of women’s reproductive labor and that of the biosphere, reduced to a repository of resources in the current mode of production; second, by reflecting on a notion of asymmetrical, and often non-reciprocal care, that would open up the space for more just socio-ecological relations in a more-than-human world.
A scholar and activist, Miriam Tola is an assistant professor of Environmental Humanities at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Her current book project focuses on the resurgence of the commons from feminist and decolonial perspectives. She has written about the intersections between gender, colonialism and materiality in the political imaginaries of the environment for numerous academic journals and media outlets.