Caring (With) Bodies

Authors: Sarah Suiter*,
Topics: Social Theory, Women, Medical and Health Geography
Keywords: care, democracy, embodiment, health
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Napoleon A2, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


“The body’s role in calling us to respond ethically to one another has continued to be egregiously neglected” (Weiss, 1999, p.5)

Hamington (2004) argues that possibilities for Tronto’s caring about, caring for, providing care, and care receiving all begin in the body. One could contend that caring with, the democratic capacity for care, begins in the body as well. But how might one develop that capacity if it is not already there? What knowledge, habits, and experiences support bodies as they develop and participate in democratic practices? What types of environments foster such development? This paper takes up these questions in the context of a recovery community for women with histories of addiction, mental illness, incarceration, and participation in street-based sex work - women who have been marginalized from many forms of democratic participation and have been the direct recipients of democratic governance that has failed to care. Drawing on three years of ethnographic fieldwork, I describe the processes by which women who enter the community move from being self-described “care-receivers only” to being those who also care for, about, and with others for the purposes of promoting “women’s freedom” through the healing of bodies (theirs and others). Congruent with Tronto’s (2013) observation that “What makes us free, actually, is our capacity to care and to make commitments to what we care about” (p. 94), I explore recovery and peer-led care as a mechanism for developing practices of freedom and democracy.

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