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Care is a concept characterized by its multiplicity of meanings, uses, and practices. It is deeply shaped by the affective contexts in which care take place. Political and social processes determine who can and does care—the work of care—and the recognition of this work. While grounded in individual relationships, care is performative insofar as it is made and remade through its provision and practice, which tells much about the power structures that surround its practice. This chapter examines these affective and performative dimensions of care through vignettes with Australian informal (unpaid) spousal caregivers. Care, as described by the participants, operates in two distinct ways. First, as they explicitly describe, their acts of care reflect what matters to them, their affective ties to another—their spouse who lives with Parkinson’s disease. All discussed care as a mutual endeavor characterized by reciprocity and meaning, resonating with Puig de la Bellacasa’s constitutive elements of care as commitment, doing, and obligation. Second, participants described their care practices as reflecting a deeply unequal gendered order in which the allocation of limited economic, social, and political resources were laid bare: who does and does not get paid in the delivery of care reinforces social and household inequalities. Attending to performativity allows a consideration of how such competing priorities are negotiated in everyday encounters of care.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Politics and Performance
EditorsShirin Rai, Milija Gluhovic, Silvija Jestrovic, Michael Saward
Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9780190863456
ISBN (Print)9780190863456
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameOxford Handbooks
PublisherOxford University Press


  • care
  • care practices
  • Performativity
  • ontologies of care
  • intersubjectivity
  • affective dimensions
  • Australia
  • neurodegeneration

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