Current open calls for submissions
Volume 27, Issue 4 - On Care
Deadline: 27 September 2021
Felipe Cervera (LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore)
Helena Grehan (Murdoch University, Australia)
Kristof van Baarle (University of Antwerp, Belgium)
This issue of Performance Research seeks to expand on and advance ideas and practices of care. During the last decade, the arts have adopted care as a hands-on concept to rethink how work is created and how it relates to its audiences. Increasingly aware that care is a performative practice that also requires imagination (Hamington 2010), artists have investigated what an aesthetics of care could be, and have sought ways to take care of one another during the creative process, even extending that care well beyond the boundaries of their work and of the communities they assemble. Similarly, arts organizations feel the need to take better care of the people and structures they consist of—an act that requires a change to these structures and institutions, which are often already in a state of crisis. Yet, if the last decade can be characterized in any way, it would probably be relative to the speed with which new crises emerge, challenging any form of established sociality and therefore the ways we think and engage with care. How we might think of care now—as an idea, a practice, a politics and/or an actuality that answers to the fluidity of contemporary crises and situations?
The ‘care’ turn in artistic practice responds to a similar turn in the wider humanities, with louder voices calling for critical and interdisciplinary articulations. For example, Joan C. Tronto asks:
'How do we go from a society that is primarily concerned with economic production to one that also emphasizes care? … To do so, we have to re-imagine democratic life as ongoing practices and institutions in which all citizens are engaged. This engagement presumes that relational selves, who need ongoing participation as both receivers and givers of care, will be central in making judgments about responsibility'. (Tronto 2013: 169)
Contextualizing this in performance studies, Amanda Stuart Fisher emphasizes that ‘performance’ and ‘care’ co-relate to each other to the extent that ‘it is impossible to conceive of caring practice outside the parameters of how it is performed’, and therefore it ‘exists only as a live encounter and within a specific juncture of time and space’ that ‘involves forms of embodied knowledge’ (2020: 7). Similarly, Stuart Fisher builds on this to signal that while the two fields have a natural convergence that enables a re-thinking of performance practice in multiple ways, at the same time
'importing the values and practices of care into performance... can also become a mode of critique, offering a way of reading and interrogating practices that feel careless or that seem to exploit rather than attend to the suffering of its participants and co-creators'. (Stuart Fisher 2020: 10)
Care may not necessarily be ‘good’ in itself. We need to remain critical about the use, abuse and potential over-use of the concept. Over the past year we have seen that the directive to ‘take care’ in a state of exception has become more than a friendly goodbye—it has become an order that enforces what Giorgio Agamben (2021) has called ‘techno-medical despotism’. Care is complicated. As well as having valuable connotations as outlined above, it is also being captured by commercial and neoliberal logics, with green and social washing as cynical performances of care that reinstall dynamics of dependence and conditionality (Ndikung 2021) or with self-care as a euphemism for fending for yourself. Hence, we need a critical approach to care more than ever: a situated, disruptive, yet committed intervention, a gesture that at once interferes in processes of suffering and devastation, and speculatively opens up alternative pathways. Care might, after more than a year of pandemic, first of all mean to repair: to heal environments and relations, interconnections and interdependencies, to rebuild worlds.
What can we do about this as artists, as academics and as members of various communities? What are we doing? As Zygmunt Bauman explains:
'Reason cannot help the moral self without depriving that self of what makes the self moral: the unfounded, non-rational, un-arguable, no-excuses given, and non-calculable urge to stretch towards the other, to caress, to be for, to lie for, happen what may'. (Bauman 1993: 247)
How, if at all, are we stretching towards one another? How are we ‘being for’, coping with and surviving with them? What kinds of acts of care and indeed carelessness have been taking place in public, in private, in secret? Ultimately, how do we reconsider the concept of care in the new world order? And furthermore: the becoming-endemic of the virus reminds us that practices of care exist in relation to the non-human. Since various influential publications in the 1980s and 1990s (for example, Gilligan 1982; Tronto 1993, 2013), care as a feminist ethical-political concept has developed well beyond its initial environment. The recent work of Maria Puig de la Bellacasa (2017) has brought care beyond the realm of the human to include relations and responsibilities for more-than-human species and other non-human entities or ecosystems.
What is care likely to be as we slowly emerge from COVID-19? Are we too tired to care? Has care been hijacked by social distancing, by illness and destruction and also by the media to become a vacuous idea? Could we care less? Or should we, and do we, care more than ever? We see broken lives, broken communities, broken structures (theatres, arts centres, businesses, educational and health sectors), increasing isolation and despair. We see a world crying out for care, for touch, for connection but one also constrained by rules about who can, who can’t—touch, care, connect, enter, leave—and how.
The theme of ‘On Care’ emerged from a week-long workshop at the Croatian National Theatre Ivan Zajc in Rijeka held from 3 to 7 June 2019. The Rijeka workshop was the initiative of the Croatian National Theatre, Rijeka; general manager and artistic director Marin Blažević; along with then vice-president of Performance Studies International (PSi) Professor Peter Eckersall. They invited fifteen international artists and academics to join them and colleagues in Rijeka to plan what was to be the 2020 PSi conference. The workshop was supported by the European Capital of Culture initiative and allowed the group to collaborate on developing a theme and a curatorial vision for the conference that would be held when Rijeka was European Capital of Culture in 2020. Of the many ideas and concepts workshopped that week the idea that the group—of which the editors of this issue were part—kept returning to was that of care. Questions and discussions swirled around this notion repeatedly, with the team eventually settling on ‘Crises of Care’ as the conference theme. Little did we know then that the term and actuality of crisis would become much more profound and widespread, leaching from concerns at that time with climate change, digital disruption, neo-liberal politics, precarity and issues concerning refugees and asylum seekers (among others) to the current situation where, while those crises remain, they have been amplified, extended and augmented by the pernicious force of COVID-19 and its far-reaching destruction. Nor did we know that the pandemic would engulf the idea of care, of society and of the possibility of a conference—that the world would be transformed, and that care would take centre stage in multiple and unexpected ways.
This issue invites articles, manifestos, position papers, interviews and artist pages that think through the idea and practice of care. Topics may include but are not limited to:
Caretaking and life stewardship
Aesthetics of care
Art as a caring apparatus
End of life care and COVID-19
The limits of care ethics
Who has the right to care?
The politics of over-caring
How to care critically
Academic work and social care
Curatorial and editorial care (or lack thereof)
The caring state or caring apparatuses of biopolitics
Rituals of self-care
Care and race/identity
The appropriation of ‘care’ by the neo-liberal machine
The politics of caring or refusing to care
Care as relational responsibility
Care beyond life—beyond the human
Theatrical care: mask work and hand gestures
Agamben, Giorgio (2021) ‘Meet the philosopher who is trying to explain the pandemic’, New York Times,https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/21/opinion/sunday/giorgio-agamben-philosophy-coronavirus.html, 21 August.
Bauman, Zygmunt (1993) Postmodern Ethics, London: Blackwell.
Gilligan, Carol (1982) In a Different Voice: Psychologial theory and women’s eevelopment, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
Hamington, Maurice (2010) ‘The will to care: Performance, expectation, and imagination’, Hypatia 25(3): 675–95.
Ndikung, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng (2021) The Delusions of Care, Berlin: Archive Books.
Puig de la Bellacasa, Maria (2017) Matters of Care. Speculative ethics in more than human worlds, London and Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Stuart Fisher, Amanda (2020) ‘Introduction: Caring performance, performing care’, in Amanda Stuart Fisher and James Thompson (eds), Performing Care: New perspectives on socially engaged performance, Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp.1-18.
Tronto, Joan C. (1993) Moral Boundaries: A political argument for an ethic of care, London: Routledge.
Tronto, Joan C. (2013) Caring Democracy: Markets, equality, and justice, New York, NY: NYU Press.
Proposals: 27 September
First drafts: 17 December
Final drafts: 11 February
Publication: June 2022
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Please send 300–400 word proposals and a 100-word bio.
Issue-related enquiries should be directed to:
Helena Grehan, Murdoch University—H.Grehan@murdoch.edu.au
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