Public Storytelling for a Caring Economy
PhD candidate in the School of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London
Abstract: Across much of the global north, a crisis of care is intensifying, with ageing populations, low-paid workforces and geographically uneven financing. While in some places, organising has achieved improvements for care workers and clients, these have often proved ephemeral, and consensus on the importance of collective care provision remains elusive. In this context, social and labour movements are seeking to shift cultural understandings of the proper place and value of care. Public storytelling represents one important tactic, but has received little scholarly attention. My fieldwork has explored these practices with a US-based coalition of carers, migrant domestic workers, and ageing groups. I draw on theories of stories’ performative potential to imagine and engender social transformation. I suggest that stories are particularly well suited for expressing caring relations. Yet they still struggle to connect personal experiences with the broader forces that structure the provision of care, including growing involvement of financial investors. I consider the extent to which these practices are able to overcome the exclusion of carers and recipients from public storytelling; to establish new spaces for care stories; and to express values of interdependence. I also discuss ways of evaluating the effects of public storytelling, and the challenges inherent in doing so.
Colloquium in Smith 304 at 3:30 with reception to follow in Smith 411.