Lauren Cubellis

Grant Type

Conference Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Washington U.

Grant number

Gr. CONF-771

Approve Date

August 22, 2017

Project Title

Cubellis, Dr. Lauren, Washington U., St. Louis, MO - To aid workshop on 'Care at the Nexus of Power and Practice: Anthropological Engagements with Caring Otherwise,' 2018, St. Louis, MO, in collaboration with Dr. Rebecca Lester

Preliminary abstract: At first glance, the concept of care is deceptively banal, evoking a feel-good sense of tending to another’s needs, or an affective orientation of selfless compassion and empathy. But ‘care’ is both more complex — and darker — than our everyday associations suggest. Whatever else it may be about, care is, at heart, about power. Not only does the very idea of care suggest the pragmatic power to materially affect the wellbeing of another; it also positions people in relationships of control and dependency. In this way, caring ‘organizes, classifies and disciplines bodies,’ becoming a means of governance ‘shot through with asymmetrical power relations’ (Martin, Myers, and Viseu 2015: 3) that flicker at the edges with the potential for both resistance and exploitation. Accordingly, enactments of care — how people care, how people talk about care, how people assess ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’ care, how people receive (or reject) care — materialize and moralize relatedness, revealing profound social and cultural beliefs about intimacy, dependency, the meanings of harm, and the imperatives of the ‘good’. This ‘thick vision of care’ (Puig de la Bellacasa 2012: 197) as telescoping broader cultural and social values about interpersonal relatedness anchors a growing trans-disciplinary interest in care, from cultural studies to STS to sociology to anthropology. This workshop with extend the focus on care from a broad concern with care as a feminist ethic to anthropological engagements with care as a way of understanding entanglements of politics, power, practice, and affective experience in everyday life.