Wednesday, March 1, 2023 at 5:00pm
A.D. White House, Guerlac Room 121 President's Drive
Sophie Lewis: Abolish Which Family? Black Familiality, Patriarchal Motherhood, and the Communization of Care
For over two centuries, utopians of various stripes have raised the banner of the "abolition of the family": the positive supersession of the capitalist privatization of care, including transcendence of patriarchy's prevalent mode of possessive maternalism. From the "phalansteries" of the first self-described "feminists" to the "red love" vision of the early Zhenotdel in Russia to the Black lesbian-feminist anti-imperialist efflorescence of the 60s and 70s, radical movements sought to imagine (and, experimentally, to prefigure) the deprivatization of care. But how does the intensely racializing history of the family's constitution in the United States impact a demand to abolish "the" family? Whose families, whose motherhoods, are at stake in the communization of care?
Sophie Lewis is the author of Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family (Verso, 2019), hailed by Donna Haraway as “the seriously radical cry for full gestational justice that I long for.” Abolish the Family: A Manifesto for Care and Liberation (Verso, 2022) is her second book. As a member of the faculty of Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, Sophie teaches courses on feminist, trans and queer politics and philosophy, including family abolitionism, Shulamith Firestone, and Kathi Weeks. With the Out of the Woods writing collective, Lewis contributed to the collection Hope Against Hope: Writings on Ecological Crisis (Common Notions, 2020). With Blind Field Journal, she has helped foster communities of Marxist-feminist cultural criticism. Previously, Dr. Lewis studied English Literature (BA) and Nature, Society and Environmental Policy (MSc) at Oxford University; Politics (MA) at the New School for Social Research; and Geography (PhD) at Manchester University. Her doctoral dissertation, “Cyborg Labor: Exploring Surrogacy as Gestational Work,” sought to reframe the political economy of contract pregnancy for the purposes of an antiwork polymaternalist utopianism. Sophie’s essays and commentaries appear in venues such as n+1, Boston Review, The Nation, The Baffler, Mal, e-flux, the New York Times and London Review of Books; her papers appear in, e.g., Signs, Paragraph, and Feminist Theory. A Visiting Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Research on Feminist, Queer and Transgender Studies, Sophie is nevertheless a freelance writer dependent on public speaking and Patreon (patreon.com/reproutopia). Her lectures are archived at lasophielle.org.