title: subRosa
subtitle: Cyberfeminism

About the Author

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Subrosa is a collective of cyberfeminists artists and researchers, critically
dealing with issues about technology and the body.


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  • [subRosa Tactical Politics][1], chapter 14, pp.221-242 (subRosa, 1999)

[1]: /library/subRosa - Common Knowledge and Political Love (in Tactical Politics).pdf

Common Knowledge and Political Love

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Under capitalism, femininity and gender roles became a “labor” function, and
women became a “labor class.” On one hand, women’s bodies and labor are
revered and exploited as a “natural” resource, a biocommons or commonwealth
that is fundamental to maintaining and continuing life: women are equated with
“the lands,” “mother-earth,” or “the homelands.” On the other hand, women’s
sexual and reproductive labor—motherhood, pregnancy, childbirth—is
economically devalued and socially degraded. In the Biotech Century, women’s
bodies have become flesh labs and Pharma-commons: They are minedfor eggs,
embryonic tissues, and stem cells for use in medical, and therapeutic
experiments, and are employed as gestational wombs in assisted reproductive
technologies (ART). Under such conditions, resistant feminist discourses of
the “body” emerge as an explicitly biopolitical practice.

Primitive Accumulation

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Human and animal bodies have been the most valuable commodity in human culture
since primitive accumulation began. It follows, then, that bodies are also
primary sites of sovereignty, resistance, and contestation. In this chapter,
subRosa begins by tracing a brief history of lay or “common” medical, and
healing practices that posed an embodied resistance to religious, medical, and
capitalist control of gendered bodies, reproduction, and medical practices—and
connects them to current social struggles to create accessible and just public
health-care systems, biopolitical autonomy, and knowledge in common.
Researching and learning from these histories is fundamental to subRosa’s
cultural practice.


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Historically, women’s bodies have been notoriously resistant to machine
adaptation or medical regulation. The unpredictable ebb and flow of menstrual
cycles, hormones, moods, libido, weight loss or gain, metabolism, ovulation,
pregnancy, gestation period, fertility, and natural birth rhythms, have
severely tested scientific control and management methods.


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SmartMom is a detournement (a tactic used by the situationists to change
original meanings of texts or images) of the concept of the Defense Advanced
Research Project Agency’s (DARPA) Smart T-Shirt technology, and the cyborg
engineering of the body for space travel, as described in Manfred Clynes and
Nathan Cline’s article “Cyborgs and Space.” SmartMom satirically proposes a
civilian adaptation of the technology of the Smart T-Shirt as a new means of
surveilling the behavior of pregnant women. Although the shirt was originally
engineered for remote battlefield wound sensing and to facilitate telepresent
surgery for soldiers or space travelers, it was not hard for subRosa to
imagine “repurposing” DARPA’s Smart T-Shirt to control women’s productive and
reproductive labor.