To care about and for others—that is other people, collectivities, plants, animals, or the climate—is a mundane and ubiquitous act. At some point in life, almost every human being needs to be cared for, encounters care, and eventually provides care. In anthropology, the critical notion of care provides an analytic tool for seriously considering life’s contingencies and for understanding the ways that people ascribe meaning to different kind of acts, attitudes, and values. This chapter argues that the concept’s normative dimension forms part of a cultural binarism that hierarchizes the world according to differently valued spheres of existence. Concentrating on this normativity as inherent to the notion, the chapter distinguishes three complementary empirical fields: care as (globalized) social reproduction, care as institutionalized asymmetry, and care beyond human exceptionalism. It becomes clear that care oscillates between two different perspectives, producing a particular tension. On the one hand, the care concept features a protective and conservative dimension that is congruent with the past. On the other hand, the concept incorporates a transformational dimension through its notions of development, progress, and improvement. To move beyond our own (potentially or inevitably) academic, Eurocentric, or human-centric understanding of the notion, this essay suggests moving “care beyond repair.” We can do so, first, by asking what role research plays in this differentiating ethics and, second, by identifying perspectives and positionalities that, at first glance, appear indistinct or inarticulate and hence do not confirm already-familiar categories of evaluation and distinction. Seen this way, care beyond repair draws attention to the making and unmaking of human existence.
Drotbohm, Heike 2022: Care beyond Repair. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology. New York: Oxford University Press.