The trope of care, we might say, is now a commonplace in critiques of individual reason and neoliberal governance; it marks a sort of innate human capacity against everything else that is political, instrumental, or “socially constructed.” Concepts, such as empathy, altruism and cooperation seem to have emerged in the wider social sciences to critique rational choice (economics and cognitive sciences), the central role of competition and aggression in human evolution (primatology and anthropology), or interest and agency (sociology, political theory). Despite the diversity of these approaches, however, the debates that they generate and are engaged in are connected in at least one important respect: altruism, above all, is a moral critique. Which is to say that, as long as empathy is taken as the bottom line, it also may potentially direct attention away from other modes of relation, or from care practices that, at times, are themselves critical in important ways.
Some of the members of ETG aim to challenge such a restraining view of criticism by asking, to paraphrase Bruno Latour, what would care do if it could be associated with more, not with less, with multiplication, not subtraction. Fortunately, we are not alone in our call for multiplying care: it is already a familiar challenge in anthropology, sociology and science studies.
Care as a methodological tool, according to Annemarie Mol, for example, is about to be situated in technological worlds: “It assumes that things are just as unpredictable as people. It does not take technologies to be ‘mere’ instruments. Instead, good care involves a persistent attempt to tame technologies that are just as persistently wild. Keep a close eye on your tools, adapt them to your needs, or adapt yourself to theirs. Technologies do not subject themselves to what we wish them to do, but interfere with who we are” (2008:50). Following this line of innovative explorations into the constitutive role of care from indigenous politics to chronic illness, members of ETG aim to examine diverse caring practices both in a methodological and geographical sense.
For more, see the edited volume of Ecologies of Care: Innovations through Technologies, Collectives and the Senses published by Osaka University.