Thelen, Tatjana. Care As Belonging, Difference, and Inequality.
In: Oxford Reseach Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190854584.013.353
The topic of care has inspired a vast and complex body of research covering a wide range of practices. As an open-ended process, it is generally directed at fulfilling recognized needs and involves at least one giving and one receiving side. Although care has mostly positive connotations in everyday usage, giving or receiving it can also be a negative experience or express domination.
Care evolves through complex arrangements of different actors, institutions, and technical devices and at the same time transforms them. As human needs are not a given, the process of care involves negotiations about who deserves to receive it and on what grounds, as well as who should provide it. Because care is so deeply implicated in articulating and mediating different moralities, it becomes central to constructions and classifications of difference. In this way, care extends far beyond intimate relations and is engrained in processes that establish belonging as well as various forms of inequality. Researching care in intimate settings as well as in public sectors enables bridging various communities of care and grasping how the distribution of care not only mirrors inequalities but contributes to their (re)production or even intensification.