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Geographies of Care and Caregiving

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10:00, Thursday 11 May 2023 EDT (2 hours)

This session aims to explore the extension of care ethics across several sectors, including formal paid care, the workplace, housing, issues of economic (in)justice, identity, and social inequality, and research methods. We consider these extensions to be fundamentally linked by the importance of the ethics of care, which can be described as an attention to the relationship between humans and their environments, an understanding of the role of mutual dependencies and attachments, the role of power relationships in the construction of the social environment, and the construction of new dynamics and relationships that foreground mutual attachment and wellbeing (Lawson, 2008). We situate the below works within the ethics of care as it is through these relationships that the social, political, and economic geographies of care are constructed and deconstructed.


Session Organizers: Sophie Geffros (McMaster University), Rachel Herron (Brandon University)

Spatializing tenants’ experiences of care infrastructures in housing crises
Samantha Thompson, Department of Geography, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Care, which is the provision of practical or emotional support, is increasingly recognized as a critical part of our lives and societies. As the impacts of housing crises continue to exist in most global North cities today, developing a detailed understanding of how ‘infrastructures of care’ shape experiences of unequal housing systems is increasingly urgent. Yet, there remain gaps in our understanding of the care geographies of housing, especially when considering housing equalities in contexts shaped by racial capitalism and settler colonialism. Drawing on archival material in Vancouver, BC and Seattle, WA, I engage feminist theorizations of care to consider the practices and politics of care that arise through municipal landlord-tenant laws, implemented in response to urban housing crises. With specific focus on Vancouver’s Rental Accommodation Grievance Board and Seattle’s Housing Preservation Ordinance, I explore how care is experienced and enacted by tenants and how this then shapes their housing security. I argue that the forms of ‘state care’ that arise through landlord-tenant laws in the context of a racial capitalist, colonial housing system is complex and consequently tenants’ practices of radical collective care crucially serve to address these ‘care gaps’ in housing crises. I demonstrate that theorizing the urban care politics of landlord-tenant laws helps us to consider a broader range of possible caring housing futures that extend well beyond the limits of hegemonic liberal economic logics.

The financialization of senior homes in Ontario
Aishah Cader

Canada has long anticipated its present crisis of appropriately housing its baby boomer population but has continually deferred responding to it. Instead, we have an unhealthy reliance on long-term care homes (LTCs) and retirement homes (RHs) to house seniors requiring assisted living in Ontario. This dependence exists despite general knowledge about the truncating effect of senior housing: the average length of stay in a provincial LTC before death is 18 months (Stall et al., 2021, p. 4). Yet in 2019, the waitlist to enter LTCs had 35,000 people. In 2022, the province committed to spending $2.68 billion to upgrade and create 30,000 beds. That the demand for this type of housing continues to exist despite alarming conditions points to a manufactured situation, which a critical geography approach can unveil. My paper describes how the widespread financialization of housing, which transformed it from a form of shelter into an asset class, forced a major bottleneck effect for senior living options in Ontario. I examine the provincial legislation that paved the way for profit-making opportunities to abound in this sector. I analyze current funding models for long-term care homes—including the implication that these funding types perpetuated the staffing and safety crisis in LTCs during the pandemic—the involvement of public versus private service housing providers; and provincial efforts to attract private investment in this sector. My paper engages with questions around the ethics of care, paid and unpaid care work, and the geographies of care and responsibility.

Archives, care, and geography: archival research as care praxis
Trevor Wideman, University of British Columbia

Archival research has been long recognized as a key method in geography, and at the same time, geographical literature on care is growing rapidly. However, these literatures have remained largely distinct from each other within the discipline, even though geographers have often implemented care into their archival research and practice, and even as archival research holds growing appeal for scholars examining historical influences on contemporary places. In this paper, I bring archives and care into further conversation. Drawing on existing geographical literature on care and on archival methods, work in archival studies, and my own research and ethnographic experiences in archives, I argue that the socio-material practices of geographers in the archives help generate spaces of care, where ethical caring practices exist, and caring relationships can flourish. I demonstrate how archival work in geography and beyond includes relationships of care between humans and non-humans – between archivists, researchers, and archival records/objects. I share some examples and strategies that geographers and other researchers can—and do—follow in building, maintaining, and repairing archival relationships, even in uncertain and precarious times.

Exploring how long-term care staff understand safe places of aging and care in societies of control
Rachel V Herron, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Environment, Brandon University, Canada.
Dale Spencer, Associate Professor, Department of Law and Legal Studies, Carleton University, Canada.
Laura Funk, Professor, Department of Sociology and Criminology, University of Manitoba, Canada.
Christine Kelly, Associate Professor, Department of Community Health Science, University of Manitoba, Canada.
Kirsten Brooks, Research Assistant, Centre for Critical Studies of Rural Mental Health, Brandon University, Canada.

Long term care should be a safe place to work and a safe place to live; yet long-term care settings are often sites of violent situations for older people and the staff who provide care. In this presentation, we explore how staff in long-term care understand features and strategies that promote safety from violence in their workplace. Conceptually, we draw together research on geographies of care with Deleuze’s societies of control to explore the mechanisms employed to promote safety within long-term care settings and the ways in which staff adopt and respond to them. Data for this analysis was collected using telephone and web-based semi-structured interviews with staff in two Canadian provinces, Manitoba and Nova Scotia, from 2021-2023. Interview transcripts were analyzed inductively to explore descriptions, meanings, and explanations of safety. Staff described trusting other staff, being able to rely on other staff, and dynamics among staff as important social features of safe places. They emphasized visibility, opportunities to escape from violent or threatening situations, being cognizant of objects that may be used as weapons and moving some residents to other rooms or specialized units as distinct spatial strategies. Finally, some staff acknowledged tensions between promoting the privacy and autonomy of residents and protecting safety of staff and other residents. We discuss the forces of control within contemporary violence prevention strategies and we raise questions about whether the features and strategies employed to promote safety contribute to the care and dignity of both older people and staff.

“You’re Just Burning the Candle at Both Ends”: Precaritized Labour and the Shifting Geographies of Care and Work
Sophie Geffros, McMaster University

The shift away from state-funded and provided health and social care services towards private provision has had a significant impact on the experiences of both service users and service providers. The neoliberal turn, and subsequent reduction in state-provided services, has also coincided with an increase in demand for care services, resulting in greater care gaps and a greater reliance on informal caregivers to meet these needs. I argue that this has particularly impacted informal caregivers who are also employed in the health and social care sectors, as both their work and homelives have been impacted by the devaluation of care and increasing service gaps. Using interview data from a project that interviewed 2SLGBTQ+-identified informal caregivers in Ontario, Canada, and British Columbia, Canada, I discuss the strategies these caregivers have used in order to meet their care and work responsibilities, including choosing more precarious employment, modifying their care duties and relationships, and attempting to maintain both traditional work and care arrangements simultaneously. I further argue that the shifting geographies of care and work have impacted the choices that are available to these caregivers, and in turn, that the collapse of boundaries between the two has destabilized the ways in which these caregivers experience the concept of home. I conclude with a discussion of how changes to service provision by the state, including but not limited to changes that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, have impacted the choices participants made to choose or switch strategies for balancing care and work. 
Key words: precarious work, informal care, care-work interactions; geographies of care work.

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