Radical Care and Mutual Aid: COVID-19, Gender, and Survival Strategies in Cochabamba, Bolivia

Authors: Nasya Razavi*, York University
Topics: Gender, Urban Geography
Keywords: COVID-19; radical care; mutual aid; Bolivia; gender; feminism
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 37
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The COVID-19 hit Bolivia during a period of political upheaval. Following the electoral crisis of November 2019, an unelected interim government took office and gravely mismanaged the pandemic response. In addition to a militarized lockdown and physical distancing measures, political violence across the country further complicated distribution of relief. In the city of Cochabamba, the governmental responses deployed to contain the pandemic severely impacted the most marginalized populations, including working poor Indigenous women, as the caretakers within households and communities, engaged in precarious work in the informal sector. Due to COVID-19, the restriction of movement resulting from the halt of public transportation and the imposition of a heavily policed quarantine effectively cut women off from their survival-rate wages. In response to the crisis, instances of radical care in the form of solidarity and mutual aid mushroomed across communities.

To understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the gendered and racialized dynamics of urban life, this paper follows the lives of Indigenous women largely employed in the precarious informal sector in Cochabamba as they endure the crisis. Travel bans and limitations on movement within the city making in-person research methods impossible, our research team used “digital diaries” to undertake qualitative research. We collaborated with interlocutors to chronicle within “digital diaries” their everyday practices and experiences during the quarantine, including their embodied experiences of radical care through mutual aid strategies. Through these digital records of everyday life, emerged themes of familial solidarity, friendship, care work, hunger, hardship, and violence.

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