Costs of Care

by Anthony W.

Care is something that I do feel is essential to teaching and learning— having care woven into the ways we interact with each other in learning spaces is often palpable in the results. It helps to foster a sense of security and comfort, making students more likely to engage in discussions and activities. I’ve tried to be intentional and integrate care very explicitly into some of my research, putting it into practice when working with faculty or my students (resulting in my DH thesis being based on the same type of games as the one used in Connection Established). That being said, care has its costs, too. There’s a burden that comes with becoming the person who takes on that responsibility when there isn’t always institutional support backing you up or providing spaces to really foster that effort collaboratively. Echoing some of our conversations around OER from some weeks back, it often falls on the backs of a small number of people to really push something forward, and that’s hard when we also need to practice care toward ourselves as we deal with the residual fallout of the pandemic.

“When she introduces the term in her 1990 book Black Feminist Thought, Collins emphasizes race, class, and gender as the three systems that historically have been most important in structuring most Black women’s lives. She notes that additional systems of oppression structure the matrix of domination for other kinds of people. The term, for her, describes a mode of analysis that includes any and all systems of oppression that mutually constitute each other and shape people’s lives.”

Sasha Costanza-Chock, Design Justice, Introduction

The way Costanza-Chock describes Collins’ matrix of domination is a good way of framing my feelings about care. As we know, intersectionality provides us with a set of advantages and disadvantages based on where we fall within the identity matrix, and based on those, people will grow to need different types of scaffolding, support, and care. So, to a degree, it feels necessary to direct that small amount of extra energy towards ourselves or those close to us with an immediate need rather than taking restructuring our teaching to be more intentional about care within pedagogy (especially as teaching has always been seen as a more feminine field, some choose to believe care is innately embedded). If you are considering care from early on in your teaching career like some of us are, then it may be easier to integrate it into your practice, but I do believe that it is an undertaking being that beacon and re-evaluating a number of your approaches.