Social Reproduction in the Live Stream

  • Elise Thorburn Brock University


In the most recent wave of struggles a changed logic of activism is evident (Dyer-Witheford, 2015). Research on this wave has often emphasised the interactions of the digital (through online forms of activism, communication, and coordination) with the embodied (in assemblies, spatial occupations, and face-to-face encounters) (Gerbaudo, 2012). Although gender has been considered in regard to these struggles (Herrera, 2014) feminist concerns over social reproduction – concerns which have also been central to the contemporary epoch of struggle (Brown, et al, 2013) – have been largely neglected.


Social reproduction refers to the capacities of populations to reproduce themselves and through this to reproduce the material basis of the economy (Bezanson and Luxton, 2006; Federici, 2012). It is a site wherein human beings and capital compete for the reproduction of living bodies, and contemporary social movements have become ground zero for such socially reproductive contestations (Thorburn, 2015). Within contemporary movements, struggles over social reproduction are increasingly channelled through digital networks as well as embodied practices. This digital-embodied convergence opens up strengths and weaknesses in the contemporary epoch of social/political contestation.


In this paper I seek to explicate how alternative feminist modes of social reproduction emerge through digital networks in contemporary social movements and compare this digital social reproduction to more embodied forms also witnessed. Using a case study of Concordia University Television’s live streaming of Quebec’s 2012 student strike, as well as the live streaming initiatives in the anti-police brutality protests in Ferguson and Baltimore 2015, this paper will suggest future horizons of digital and embodied activism around social reproduction focused on media forms within social movements. Based on ethnographic research, including participant observation and interviews, I argue that the practices and projects of live streaming can expand forms of social reproduction autonomous from both the state and capital. The digital practices of social reproduction emerging in contemporary struggles can contribute to circumventing power while at the same time constituting sites of resistance within and beyond social and political contestations.


Author Biography

Elise Thorburn, Brock University
Elise Thorburn is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Brock University's Social Justice Research Institute and an Adjunct Professor of Sociology. She holds a PhD from the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. She is involved in the Toronto Prison Justice Coalition and is an editor with Upping the Anti.
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