Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Cultural Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Inequality
Secondary Theme: Persistence
What does it mean to strive for a “good life” through the practice of care? How might the social relations involved in care enact particular aspirational, moral, and political projects? This panel places the study of care in conversation with recent calls in anthropology to move past the discipline’s reliance on narratives of suffering and attend to how people enact “the good” (Chua 2014; Ortner 2016; Robbins 2013; Fischer 2014; Singh 2015). We build on Cheryl Mattingly’s argument that “the good life for humans is not merely about surviving but also about flourishing” (2014: 9) -- and see care as central to intertwined questions of morality and well-being. We find that care creates productive possibilities and challenges what the good life looks like for individuals, including in contexts of precarity.
This panel considers diverse ways that people consider life to be “good,” “qualified,” or “ethical” — and how people enact (or at least aspire to) these forms of life through acts and structures of care. In keeping with this year’s conference theme, we examine alternative understandings of “the good” as people live with, resist, or refuse hegemonic forces. Recent attention to morality in anthropology (Das 2007; Fassin 2012; Keane 2015; Lambek 2010; Zigon and Throop 2014) has raised productive questions about people engage with “the good” in ordinary practice. Building on these approaches, we consider how care enacts specific ideas about life for oneself and for others. We understand social ideas of “the good” to have complex implications for care; they may serve as the basis for forms of violence and domination (Mulla 2014; Stevenson 2014) but also potentially emerge as sites for generating new forms of living in precarious circumstances (Han 2012; Mattingly 2010; 2014). Yet even as we foreground “the good,” we seek to move beyond the idea that care necessarily arises from internal conviction and ask what other social configurations might shape the work of care (Aulino 2016). We ultimately consider whether certain relations of care might create possibilities for other kinds of life and other kinds of politics.
The papers on this panel explore care and the “good life” through an array of sites and approaches, including grandparent caregiving in the U.S., relational care in Bolivian hospitals, kinwork in Salvadoran transnational families, “sustainable livelihood” projects in Uganda, food practices among Afghan women, and moral striving in U.S. faith-based organizations.