Report on the fieldwork in Spain: Childcare Commons and the Micropolitics of Municipalismo

The sixth heteropolitics report authored by Manuela Zechner, Case Studies in Spain: Childcare Commons and the Micropolitics of Municipalismo, spans four years of embedded research in Barcelona and beyond, looking at the micropolitics of municipalism and at the politics of neighborhood childcare commoning.

Though they might seem unrelated, these two matters are very much connected in the political and social landscape of Barcelona between 2016-20. We are looking at a time of strong dynamics of change in institutions, policies as well as neighborhood fabrics and politics, all of which share a new sensitivity to the politics of care. This politics bears the signature and fruits of Spain’s ‘new feminisms’ (Gil 2012, Perez Orozco 2012), of Southern European struggles for welfare and Latin American struggles for commons (Perez & Salvini Ramas 2019, Gutiérrez Aguilar 2017a; 2017b), and of the global movements around care (Barbagallo & Federici 2010, Bärtsch et al. 2017, Luxemburg 2018) – and articulates them with new struggles and strategies at the neighborhood and municipal level. The subjects of this new politics are manifold: generally, it is women, migrants and informal workers who are at its center in the urban context. More specifically, in our case, it is also local mothers, children and parents as well as councilors, mayors as in the case of Ada Colau in Barcleona, and municipalist platforms, parties and networks.

My research into this politics has neither been disengaged nor disinterested, but rather immersive and militant, in the sense of partaking in the lived territories, realities and desires that drive it. As a mother I have been living and caring in the neighborhood of Poble Sec, whose networks and groups of childcare are the subject of the first study in this report. As an activist and writer, I have been engaged with Barcelona en Comú since its emergence, working first with the migrations, then the international and Poble Sec working groups. My interests and desires certainly express themselves in my observations and analyses, and they have strongly influenced the kind of conversations I could have in interviews and group settings. Rather than offer a supposedly impartial study of the political climate of Barcelona between 2016-20, what I can offer here is an engaged and situated account that is shaped by many ongoing relations of collaboration, trust and discussion. As Donna Haraway puts it, ‘It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts, what descriptions describe descriptions, what ties tie ties’ (Haraway 2016: 12). Talk of care might sound like mystification to the positivist ear, yet the difference it points to is substantial: it matters how we relate, from what place, position and ground we make connections, be they between beings or concepts.

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