Care and crisis in David Graeber’s New York: Anarcha-feminism, gift economies, and mutual aid beyond a global pandemic

  • Caroline K. Kaltefleiter State University of New York at Cortland, Cortland, USA
Keywords: David Graeber, Marcel Mauss, Occupy, anarchism, mutual aid, care, crisis


The scholarship and life experiences of David Graeber provide a context to investigate the notion of care during crises. The COVID-19 global pandemic serves as a critical flashpoint to explore concepts such as gift economies and mutual aid, as noted throughout his work. Drawing upon the theoretical frameworks of Peter Kropotkin and Marcel Mauss, this article highlights a discussion of ‘gifting’ put forth by Mauss and (re)investigates Kropotkin’s work as taken up by Graeber. Through a trajectory of historiography and autoethnography, I examine the significance of anarcha-feminism embodied by and through that of Emma Goldman as significant to anarchist practices that reverberate in Graeber’s life and work. I, therefore, introduce a theoretical concept of phantom power to describe this phenomenon. Further, I situate anarcha-feminism within collectives of care and relate this work to anarchist interventions such as Occupy. I argue that Graeber’s anarchist framework for Occupy provided the foundation for contemporary mutual aid groups in New York that were active not only during the pandemic but, importantly, to ongoing mutual aid and direct action projects. Finally, I acknowledge this article to be an engagement with the phenomenology of David Graeber, who remains influential in my research, teaching, and activism.