( pn53 )

Care and the anthropological imagination


    Lenore Manderson


    School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

    Jagriti Gangopadhyay


    Manipal Centre for Humanities, Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), Manipal, India

    Online - Presence

    Jason Danely


    School of Law and Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

IUAES Affiliation: Aging and the Life Course


Care, Imagination, Politics, Disability, Old Age,


What would anthropology look like if it did not treat care only as the object of its gaze, but also as the lens that focuses its attention? How would this shift change the positioning of the observer and the observed? What new questions might such an anthropology ask, and what forms of writing or expression might anthropologists adopt in response to those questions? Reimagining anthropology as a practice of care requires images of care (Mattingly & Grøn 2022). The papers in this panel use ethnographic images of care to reflect on processes of anthropological knowledge making as care. We recognize that images of care are dynamic and complex. Providing care to frail, disabled or cognitively impaired individuals, for example, involves an intimate and intense imaginative labour of recognizing and managing a range of often ambivalent and turbulent emotions. An extensive ethnographic literature also reveals the ways care reconfigures sensibilities, grounds moral commitments, embodies vulnerability and interdependence, and opens up possibilities for (re)imagining the good life, even in the midst of sorrow, anxiety, and grief (Cubellis 2020). Cultural narratives can provide strong sources of meaning, support and recognition, smoothing out some of this unsettledness. However, cultural ideologies can also constrain or isolate carers. The costs of care are often disproportionately felt by those who, because of structural inequalities and relative poverty, have already been made vulnerable. Digital technologies, migration and mobility have all affected care inequalities and their relationships to bodily proxemics (Levine & Manderson 2021). Reimagining anthropology as care, then, means also finding ways to give voice to these complexities of struggle and resistance. The personal transformations that carers often experience through providing care reveal radical potentials for care to generate empathetic resonance between the carer and the cared-for, and to animate broader social networks of mutual support and solidarity. Reimagining anthropology along the lines of care means engaging in the same potential transformations. Care enriches collaborative and participatory fieldwork, providing the space for decolonial, anti-ageist and anti-ableist activism. It challenges dominant epistemologies and invites us to work more imaginatively, through processes of co-production, and to engage in ethnography that is curious, sensitive and responsible. In this way, an anthropology of/as care is political. This panel aims to critique the structures of violence that impinge on our capacity for extending caring attention to others and to produce theoretical openings for the fullness of carers' experiences to be recognized and to resonate across contexts. For example, institutional barriers to research, such as the convention of informed consent, often results in ethnographic research that excludes care-dependent individuals living with disabilities. This mirrors problems faced by carers, whose attunement to the cared-for may be difficult to articulate within the parameters of formal care systems, and is therefore often discounted or ignored. Institutional barriers can reinscribe ableist notions of the person as separate from the social relations in which they are embedded (Pieta & Diodati 2023). We aim to show how reimagining anthropology as care can offer alternatives to these structures.