The anthropology of care encompasses diverse issues, and conversing with many disciplines. But what is 'care', that we can build an anthropology on it? Virtue or disposition? A job one is paid for? What social or economic value attaches to care? We interrogate the potential of this new focus.
The anthropology of care is a growing field. It covers diverse issues: ontology, relationality, connection, economic values, social policy, kinship, gender, ethnicity, life/death, ageing. It includes care of people (young, aged, sick, kin, etc), of souls, animals, and ecological environments; different cultures of care; care as disposition, responsibility, task, profession; and critiques of uncaring socio-economic orders. This work articulates with concerns in medicine/health, psychology, morality/ethics, embodiment, performance, communication. To some, it speaks to universals, to others it must be situated. The economic modelling of subjectivities under neoliberal regimes constitutes 'care' as non-value: care for those who are vulnerable is an economic burden on taxpayers; those requiring care 'encumber' a society or other individuals; the provision of professional care is poorly paid, undervalued and gendered. In such contexts, care becomes a weak social value: soft, sentimental, effeminate. Do debates within anthropology suffer from this enfeebling image of care? Does anthropology care to counter such values? What lies at the heart of these experiences, relationships and activities we call 'care'? Care has come to mean so much: does this risk meaninglessness? Is conceptual clarification possible? Is care a useful concept for anthropology, upon which it is viable to an anthropology of care? We seek papers that explore the many issues that the framing and use of 'care' poses, and which discuss its ethnographic, theoretical and analytical potential and significance.