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“I’m the primary caregiver for our children.”
“I care about you.”
“I wish you would take better care of your health.”
“We need to care about our environment.”
Can we imagine, or indeed survive in, a world without care? From public health to domestic arrangements to climate change, the language of care permeates our everyday lives. It is an emotion – one can care deeply about someone or something; it is labour – women disproportionately take on caring and emotional burden; it is a form of relation – children and other dependents are cared for; it may also be a form of protest – to draw upon Audre Lorde, self-care can be political warfare. There are also repeated injunctions about the global ‘crisis of care’. This crisis may emerge from, as feminist theorisation has persistently highlighted, the relegation of care and social reproduction to secondary status in relation to income-generation and financialisation. Where social arrangements develop premised on capital interests, rather than the fundamental necessity of care, there may be lack of availability of care arrangements, time crunch between ‘work’ and ‘life’, climate change triggered by wasteful consumption of limited resources, and so on, indicating a fast-approaching breaking point for individuals and society. Indeed, the coronavirus crisis has prompted a discussion about the practices of care that otherwise remain invisible.
While there is scholarship on care in different disciplines, there is relatively little work to develop conceptual links between social, economic, and ecological care. There is also scarce comparative understanding of varied registers of care around the globe – how is care valued and practiced differently by different people? This two-day interdisciplinary conference will treat ‘care’ as an object/subject of investigation with emphasis on encompassing global formulations of care – hence, ‘The Social Life of Care’. Using the history, contemporary representations, and circulation of discourse of care in diverse contexts as an entry point, the discussion will attempt to extricate the ‘fundamentals of care’ – is care fundamentally non-transactional? Is care fundamentally emotional? Is care fundamentally gendered? From this working definition of care, the conference will engage with varied methodological and analytical approaches to care through the work of scholars from public health, sociology, geography, anthropology, and economics. These discussions will open up space for reflection on the future of care – both a taking account of the implications of a care-less society and a utopian envisioning of a society built upon the foundations of care.
Newnham College Cambridge
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