German Feminist Marxist scholar, thinker, and activist Maria Mies passed away on May 16, 2023, after ninety-two years on the earth. Having dedicated her life to a feminist liberatory practice and groundbreaking research, Mies focused her analysis on a critique of the relationships between patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalist accumulation on a global scale. Mies most circulated and cited research, published in 1986, was Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labor. Mies invented the term "housewifization" and used the category to analyze how capitalist value accumulation international division of labor created labor hierarchies and unequal and asymmetric sexual division of work in the domestic sphere.
Mies published her first book, Indian Women and Patriarchy: Conflicts and Dilemmas of Students and Working Women, in 1980, and 2011 published The Village and the World: My Life, Our Times, an inspiring and world-expanding autobiography about her experiences as an ecofeminist scholar and activist. "She fights the Multilateral Agreement of Investment, she fights the General Agreement on Trade in Services, she fights against the patenting of life and tackles reproductive and genetic engineering as well as food security, but she never gives up hope that there is an alternative to present day injustice and exploitation; that "the good life" is possible."
Of the obituaries honoring her work, I want to highlight two quotes. The first is from Dr. Chhaya Datar, 80, former head of the Women Studies Unit at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India.
"During the late 1970s till 1990, we used to meet and interact with Prof Maria Mies regularly in the workshops, study circles, consultations, conferences and meetings of the Feminist International Network on Reproductive Rights and Against Genetic Engineering (FINRRAGE) in Pune or Mumbai or Hyderabad. Maria Mies wholeheartedly supported our campaign against sex selection and alerted us about the harmful impact of new reproductive technologies. Her writings and quotable quotes, 'coloured women as a last colony for capital accumulation' and 'invisible hands,' have been cited by us in our lectures, training programmes and study circles…"
The second tribute is from The Kurdistan Women's Communities (KJK). "We can say with pride and happiness that our friend Prof. Mies was able to experience a 21st century women's revolution in Kurdistan while she was still in good health, and this achievement was made possible through the work of exceptional women like her. Maria Mies is a name that will always stand for insightful analysis, critique, and inspirational alternatives. We remember her with great respect, and she will live on in our struggle for women's freedom and for the establishment of a more just and peaceful society," KJK stated.
Mies inspired generations of scholars and activists across the globe. May her passing be a call to revisit her critical and creative interventions into the machinations and consequences of patriarchal forms of economic development and the impact on our bodies and the planet of accumulation and annihilation through dispossession. Perhaps most importantly, Mies political and intellectual work was intertwined, emphasizing the need to care for each other and the earth.