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What is the value of care?



Revaluing Care in the Global Economy is an ongoing international, interdisciplinary collaboration that started from a recognition that we’ve been talking about the maldistribution of carework for over a century.  For at least half a century there has been a robust body of research and critical thinking across disciplines, including extensive data collection, various metrics and indices, and reams of essays decrying the fact that — around the world — carework remains badly undervalued in all senses and falls overwhelmingly to women, particularly racially or ethnically marginalized women.  The standard repertoire of solutions — state-, market-, and technology-based approaches — have barely made a dent in the problem, and even modest legislative reforms are a very heavy lift.
We launched this project in 2018 to see if we could find ways to open up this question of valuing care to think about it from new perspectives.  Following a two-day brainstorming workshop in April 2019, we decided to focus on three principal research areas:  

1) metrics (how to measure care, how it affects care when we try to measure it)
2) governance (how laws and policies both foster and reflect normative values of care)
3)  social practices (how various practices and social formations inform attention to care).  

We also have started from two fundamental premises that have become even more evident since we started:

1) that social, cultural, and ecological care are all interdependent and imbricate and
2) that innovative solutions to the “crisis of care” can be found in many corners the world, particularly those that have been most suspicious of the standard repertoire of solutions

The Revaluing Care project — like everything else on the planet — was knocked sideways when Covid hit, but the pandemic also served as a kind of blacklight, illuminating many aspects of care and its value that had remained invisible or only partially visible as most of us move through the world.

In 2021-22, we focused on the theme of Visualizing Care – a project that stems not only from long-standing feminist efforts to make visible the time, labor, attention, and expertise required for care but also from a discomfort with our own efforts to represent care without reinscribing naturalized and common-sensical conceptions of what constitutes care and what care implies.  Working with several members of our group here at Duke, we decided to turn to artists to help us defamiliarize our understanding of care and to help us develop new sensory and lexical vocabularies for representing care.  During that year, we conducted a series of virtual workshops and art exhibitions, culminating in the May 2022 Visualizing Care conference.

In 2022-23 we will focus more on incubating and amplifying research in this area.   First, we are planning to host a series of work-in-progress seminars that will allow authors — particularly younger and underrepresented writers — to receive critical feedback on an article- or chapter-length piece of writing before submitting it for publication.  Second, we have launched an open-access, Zotero-based bibliography that allows people to add entries for work that contributes to the conversation about revaluing social, cultural, or ecological care.  We are offering course development mini-grants to work with instructors to incorporate bibliography entries into their teaching so that we can expand the bibliography.   We’re particularly interested in collaborating with instructors from around the world who can expand beyond the Euro-North American and English-language emphasis we currently have. 
The Revaluing Care in the Global Economy project has enjoyed broad support at Duke.  We particularly want to thank Eve Duffy in the Duke Office for Global Affairs, who has been the fairy godmother for this project from its inception. The Program in Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies and the Mellon-funded Humanities Unbounded program have provided both financial and administrative support. Duke’s Bass Connections program supported a parallel project that focused on questions of metrics and creating a resource hub for community partners.   We have also received support from the Franklin Humanities Institute, the Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation Endowment Fund, the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Duke in Africa Initiative, and the Duke in India Initiative.

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