Precarias a la Deriva

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Craig Dalton and Liz Mason-Deese:

"Precarias a la Deriva (Precarious Women Adrift) is a feminist collective in Madrid that demonstrates the power of militant research and autonomist concepts in the current economy, particularly through their use of the drift method. The group formed when major labor unions in Spain called a general strike in 2002 and a number of women realized they were not in a position to participate. How could temp workers, the self-employed, workers on per-hour contracts, and domestic workers (to name a few) strike? Who would even notice? These questions, paralleling 3Cs founding questions about labor in the university, highlight the conditions and experiences of precarious workers in the current economy.

In addressing these questions, Precarias initiated the picket-survey as a form of militant research. They visited sites of precarious labor where workers were unable to participate in the general strike and asked these workers a provocative question: what is your strike? Or, what does it mean to go on strike in your situation? (Precarias a la Deriva, 2003). Asking this question serves multiple purposes. First, it stops the production process for a few minutes, a sort of mini-strike. Second, it investigates the conditions of work/life in the contemporary economy. Third, it establishes connections among a disparate group of workers and opens up a space for future organizing.

From this experiment, the Precarias developed their own drift method. Their drift was inspired by the Situationists’ derive, but crafted specifically for the ir own context and struggles (Debord, 1956; Precarias a la Deriva, 2005). In each drift, a different precaria leads the group of drifters through her everyday trajectory, discussing her life and answering questions along the way. As opposed to the Situationists’ use of the derive to understand the literal structure of the city, the Precarias' drift is a directed itinerary through the specific conditions of their everyday lives as social subjects. Drifting proved useful in exploring the spatial practices of precarious workers, who are often not confined to a singular or stationary workplace. The Precarias use these drifts to find intersection points between distinct and atomized itineraries in urban space from which to intervene and wage a struggle together (Precarias a la Deriva, 2003b). Through these drifts, the Precarias developed their own understanding of the social factory and immaterial labor theses (2005). This analysis shows common features amongst all forms of immaterial labor, while recognizing that there are hierarchies and differences as well.

This innovative research-intervention methodology allows the women of Precarias a la Deriva to experiment with alternative forms of political organization outside traditional political parties and trade union structures. Through the drifts, the Precarias not only investigate their situations, they also enact new, lived spaces of everyday life and create new practices and networks of resistance. Documenting these collective drifts and conversations generate a better understanding of the conditions of precarity. They allow women with different backgrounds and experiences to recognize not only their differences, but what they have in common (Precarias a la Deriva, 2003a; Casas-Cortes, 2009)" (