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Forms and Theories of Care: Approaches for the Future

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Organizer: Sharon Marquart

Co-Organizer: Martha Ndakalako

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A concept with its roots in feminist ethics, care is a category invoked across an array of fields to confront the challenges we face today both in scholarship and in the contemporary global order. For instance, in Black studies, care has been proposed as a framework for considering the afterlives of slavery; South African feminists ground notions of care in the communal African philosophy, Ubuntu (I am because we are); in literary studies, care has been invoked as a new way of conceiving literature as a form of attention and relation; in critical theory, care is linked to an array of ethical concepts such as sharing, vulnerability, precarity, community, and affect (among others). This seminar seeks to understand and explore the recent turn to care in diverse contexts and fields, from feminist, queer, and critical theory to disability studies, trauma and memory studies, film and media studies, Black studies, environmental humanities, medical humanities, and beyond. We are particularly interested in papers that create dialogues across critical approaches through the concept of care and/or that link questions of care to concrete issues (for example, reparations, migration, climate change, Covid, assisted suicide…). Given that care has been criticized as essentializing, sentimentalizing, and exclusively female-focused, we seek papers that explicitly avoid such impulses in their approaches. Guiding questions for this seminar include:

What can theories of care bring to the theoretical frameworks used in distinct fields in literary and cultural studies? 
With decades of care theories behind us, in what directions should we go next in order to face current and future challenges in the world?
When we center issues of care, how does that shift our broader theoretical concerns?
What models of ethical engagement can the experiences of caregivers and care receivers offer us for facing contemporary and future challenges?
How does the labor involved in care reorient our ideas about work more generally?
How does care inform senses of belonging to diverse forms of association and identity (such as race, gender, class, sexuality, ability, or national identity, among others) while also cultivating solidarities across such divisions?
What do theories of care look like when considered in specific cultural contexts and disciplinary approaches? How do they reorient these contexts and approaches?

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