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Accepted Paper:

Labour of care is less than actual work especially when it is done by women. Yet it is crucial when the state withdraws and households get poorer. Ethnographic glimpses from Athens.  

Author:

Letizia Bonanno (University of Kent)

Paper short abstract:

This paper departs from a critical appraisal of the relation between the state, the voluntary sector and the household, and invites a return to the anthropology of gender to better apprehend why labour of care is still perceived as confined to the private yet it is crucial to sustaining the public.

Paper long abstract:

Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in a self-organised medical facility on the outskirts of Athens, this paper sets off to explore how women's unwaged labour of care has gone largely unrecognised, yet has proved crucial to both the functioning of the facility they volunteered in, the livelihood of many citizens who attended the facility in search for care and, ultimately, to the neoliberal statecraft project in the wake of austerity measures. Responding to the question of whether the economic crisis can entail a markedly gendered aspect, I will show how the Greek volunteering women I worked with engaged with the aftermath of the economic crisis and resorted to their skills of housewives and carers to keep the medical facility working efficiently. I suggest that they did so by tapping into gendered expectations and domestic modes of care which, extracted from the household, were progressively relocated in the voluntary sector. Crucially, to the voluntary sector the state had been increasingly outsourcing the provision of those welfare services it was no longer able to provide.

This paper departs from a critical appraisal of the relation between the state, the voluntary sector and the household, and invites a return to the anthropology of gender to better apprehend why labour of care is still perceived as confined to 'the private' and 'the domestic' yet it is crucial to sustaining 'the public' and 'the state.'

Panel P100
Rethinking work, power and social reproduction in and beyond Europe [Anthropology of Labour Network]