SCA2014: Care as Labor?

To express interest in this panel, please use the comments feature on this page and/or contact Zhiying Ma: zhiyingma [at] uchicago.edu

This panel is aimed at contributing to the recent anthropological interest in care, by interrogating the relationship between care and labor. Earlier social science research on care, such as that by Arlie Hochschild, tended to examine care as affective labor that was conditioned by, and in turn shaped, a certain political economic order. In recent years, anthropologists have increasingly tasked themselves with finding care as affective overflow that can bring about ethical and ontological transformations beyond market, medical, or other putatively neoliberal forms of personhood or sociality. While we appreciate this attention to care in anthropology, we are concerned that an easy designation of care over against politics and political economy may run the risk of romanticizing the everyday, glossing over what exactly people do when they argue in terms of care, and reproducing the problematic distinctions of public vs. private, personal vs. political, etc. Therefore, in this panel we seek to bring the diverse concerns with care together, re-examine the relationship between care and labor, and critically appraise the theoretical usefulness of the concept of care itself.

Questions of interest include (but are not limited to) the following: What are the conditions on which care gains the recognition as labor? In lacking or gaining such recognition, how do the putatively private and intimate relations of care reproduce, destabilize, or transform our imaginations of political economy and the public? In turn, what labor, as a category, can tell us about care? What can be the ends of care, for example in terms of the life forms and socialities that it seeks to produce? If care is entangled with complicated affects such as fear or disgust, and if it is carried out in acts of control, confinement or violence, then how should we rethink the ethics and politics of care, its utopia and dystopia? Moreover, in face of such practical ambiguity and affective ambivalence, what does an analytical designation of care in ethnographic situations reveal or conceal?

If you are interested, please submit your abstract to Zhiying Ma (zhiyingma [at] uchicago.edu) by Jan 24th, along with your name, contact information, andinstitutional affiliation. Any inquiries are also welcome.