Category Archives: precarity

Map (y)our feminist strike


Since 2017, March 8—International Working Women’s Day—has been commemorated by powerful transnational feminist strikes, inventing new practices and geographies of the strike, striking as much from (under)paid work as from unpaid domestic work, as from gender mandates that distribute labor and attempt to discipline us. In turn, the strike produced a time of encounter, for us to find each other and elaborate new ways of being together, weaving new alliances and connections between our different struggles. 

Yet, this year, the pandemic and corresponding crisis brings a new set of difficulties. We already know that the pandemic hits women the hardest. Whether on the underpaid front lines in hospitals and health care centers, the education and service work deemed essential, or trapped in the domestic space due to quarantine measures and job loss, becoming full-time teachers, cooks, care-givers, women are increasingly putting our bodies on the line.

So, how do we strike in this context?

Building on our call for quarantine maps, we offer this mapping exercise as a way to start thinking about what (y)our strikes might look like. Do it alone or together, with groups of friends or compañeras, share the results with us (countercartographies(at) and each other, as you like. Draw directly on blank paper, make your own additions to a base map using stickers, icons, or collage. Make a time-use chart of how you spend time or another type of graphic representation of your life, work, and strike in the pandemic.

* Map your daily life: Where do you go? Where/when do you work? Paid work, unpaid, underpaid work. How is value extracted from your everyday life? When, and where, don’t you work?

* Map your networks: What networks of care are you embedded in? Whose labor sustains your quarantine? Whose quarantine does your labor sustain?

* What is your strike? Looking at your map/diagram of all your labor, how will you strike? Where/when will you strike? What will you strike against, what will you strike for?

* What would it take to make your strike possible? We know we cannot strike alone. We know that the care work we do is vitally necessary, and yet, we must strike. Could you imagine a map of connections, support, the infrastructure, that would make your strike possible?

Map your May Day! Quarantine Drifts

The coronavirus and its associated crises, are being graphically narrated by cartographies of the spatial spread of contagion, numbers of deaths, health care capacities, unemployment numbers, etc. We have gotten used to checking those maps in the daily news, feeding our anxieties and imaginaries of contagion, risk, and danger. Yet, what is left out of this type of statistics-based mapping, this perspective from above? And how could we use these maps to share other stories, other experiences, to connect them and to organize? What can we learn from how our daily lives are re-invented inside the differentiated confinement of quarantines? What do the pandemic and quarantine reveal about the previous ‘normality’ and its breaking points? What possibilities for political action are closed off and which open up? And this May Day, we return to an old question, but with a new twist: what is your strike (in quarantine)?

With this in mind, we want to propose a collective mapping of our quarantines, the care chains that we are involved in, and our possible strikes. Make maps either individually or collectively and then please send them to us at countercartographies(at) & let us know if you want to be involved in future projects!

Map themes:

1. Map your quarantine! Where do you go, in your house, in your neighborhood or your city? Where do you work? Where and how do you connect with others? How is your mobility limited in this time? Make a time-use chart: how do you spend your days? How much time are you working, caring for others, consuming, anxiously watching the news, etc.?

2. Map your chains of interconnection: whose care and labor makes your quarantine possible? For example, where does your food come from? Where does your trash go? And whose quarantine are you making possible with your labor? Landlords, bosses, Jeff Bezos? What geographies of mutual aid and solidarity are you involved in?

3. Map your strike: What will you stop doing? What will you stop consuming? What will you stop paying?

What has 3Cs been up to?

As we’ve become more dispersed geographically, now spanning three continents, and temporally, with different rhythms of everyday life and precarity and different care and community responsibilities, we often find it hard to work together on big projects. But our collective thinking still informs work that we are all doing and we continue writing and theorizing about maps and counter-maps, precarity, migration, care, and militant research, among other things…

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3Cs at the Feminist Geography Conference

Last May, 3Cs facilitated a workshop on mapping spaces of precarity and spaces of care at the Feminist Geography Conference in Chapel Hill.

The abstract:

In the Counter Cartographies Collective, we have long been concerned with increasing precaritization in the university, not only in terms of working conditions but also the precaritization of other facets of life and knowledge production. Yet more than a description of current trends, we have understood the concept of precarity as a tool that might allow for remapping new ties of solidarity and the emergence of an ethics of care. In this workshop, we will be collectively mapping out how the university both produces precarity and also serves as a site of resistance to it. We will look at spaces where we feel threatened, isolated, marginalized, or precarious, as well as the spaces of possible or already existing alternatives, spaces where we feel cared for, where community is being built. While we will particularly look at the campus space, we also hope to focus on the connections between the university and other places, such as the home and the city.

Each group took the prompt in a different direction, deepening our original questions about precarity and care in unexpected ways. One group started by tracing their hands and mapping out their experiences of precarity starting from their hands – arthritis, women typing for men, so many emails – but also of care – painting nails, swimming, yoga, caring for others. [This reminds Liz of her experience of shattering two fingers in a bus accident and being unable to write, cook, open doors or wine bottles, and needing so much care!]

A second group made a concept map linking spaces and experiences of precarity, also showing how different people can experience different places differently — the gym, the forest, the coffee shop, are spaces where some people feel cared for an others don’t. Another group mapped spaces where people feel support and cared for versus spaces of precarity, also highlighting the role of the internet and virtual spaces.

We can draw some initial conclusions from this mapping… First, the importance of bodies/embodiment – both in how we feel and experience precarity and lack of care and bodies carrying out the material labor involved in “immaterial” academic labor, as well as the specificity of different bodies in experiencing different spaces differently.

Second, that the university is routinely experienced as a space of precarity, albeit in different ways, and there seems to be very little opportunity for constructing any lasting spaces or infrastructures of care within the university. What there might be, however, are moments or tactics of care and links to spaces of care outside of the university.

And finally, that care is a lot of work!

Photo credit Francisco Laso

Photo credit Francisco Laso

Maribel on Struggles around Precarity

3Cs’ Maribel Casas-Cortés on Against the Grain talking about precarity

From the show’s description:

To many people and activist networks in Europe, “precarity” denotes the insecurity and vulnerability experienced by workers, immigrants, tenants, unemployed people, and others as attacks on labor protections and welfare supports continue. Maribel Casas-Cortés views precarity as a toolbox concept capable of uniting diverse struggles.

And, check out Maribel’s article “A Genealogy of Precarity” here

Cartographies of a “#revolution” (1)

(The first in a series about the protests in Spain. Disclaimer: I’m in Madrid, therefore my posts are from the perspective of Madrid. There are marches, camps and assemblies in cities and towns across Spain – I would love to hear reports from more of them. Also, the pictures are not mine but have borrowed from other sources.)

I had the good luck to arrive in Spain on May 14, the day before the “#spanishrevolution” was to begin. Of course, it wasn’t entirely luck, I had been inundated with tweets and FB posts about May 15 for months, mostly by friends from Barcelona. That was enough to get me to pay the $40 extra and very quickly move out of my apartment to get to Madrid by the 15th. (point 1 about social media: if it got me to go to Madrid from the US, think how many people were encouraged by social media to travel much shorter distances.)

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3Cs meets Carrotworkers

When in London recently, Liz met with the Carrotworkers’ Collective – a collective of ex-interns in the cultural sector, working largely around issues of free labor. Their work counters some of the myths surrounding free labor in the cultural sector, which are very similar to some of those that we’ve encountered in graduate school – it’s a rite of initiation (you have to suffer as a grad student to eventually make it into the ranks of tenured faculty), we do this work out of love (therefore we don’t need to get paid a living wage), etc.

We talked about different forms of militant research, including mapping and graphing, and ways of doing both quantitative and qualitative research. They emphasized the importance of having at least some quantitative data on the cultural sector, as well as documenting the subjective experiences of interns. One technique they’ve used is to have folks graph how they spend their time in terms of unpaid vs. paid labor and the trends and transformations over time and how people would ideally spend their time.
They are currently working on a Counter Internship Guide

We’re planning on doing a collaboration with the Carrotworkers and students at Queen Mary University in April and May of this year, more coming soon…

3Cs in Bologna

Liz recently got back from a visit to Bologna…

My first night in Bologna I gave a talk at Bartleby – an occupied space at the university and spoke about university struggles in the US and the edu-factory project. The talk was part of a week of events leading up to the strike on Friday that included other talks, meetings, music and parties. Some themes that came up in the discussion during my talk were:

– the relationship between autonomous movements and major trade unions
– the effects of student debt (universities in Italy are now beginning to charge tuition fees, forcing students to go into debt in order to study – like the US!)
– the effects of the Bologna Process and other efforts at standardization of university curriculum

The next day, I participated in the autonomous student & precarious workers’ march during the general strike, as part of the Yes We Cash campaign for a guaranteed minimum income.

Back in NC, our discussions focused on the importance and the pragmatics of having a space – in Bologna, as many other places around the world, taking over a space, not only as a temporary tactic, but to create a more permanent presence, an alternative space. These spaces are used for talks and discussions like the one I participated in, and also  more generally as meeting places, spaces to enact the kind of university we want. Could we do this? It seems much harder to permanently occupy spaces within our university campus. For one, there is much less unused space to occupy and secondly, the administration is much less willing to negotiate with students for the control of a space. Yet this shouldn’t serve as discouragement, but rather open up new lines of inquiry and action. In Italy and other places, it is the strong base of student power that forces the administration to negotiate with students – building this power from below must be one of our starting points. Some questions that might merit further research – how are spaces used and controlled on our campus? What would we like that to look like? How might we begin to go about occupying university spaces differently? What about creating alternative spaces of knowledge production outside of the university?