Brock University

A Sociology of Care: Challenging Borders and Boundaries in Caring Occupations

What is care and how do we investigate it? This panel starts with the assumption that care is more than the performance of tasks, more than an expression of concern, more than an ethic or a labour of love. Care involves distinct ways of being and relating to others. It involves its own specific styles of knowing and judging. It requires particular forms of institutional and social organization. Yet care also marks off contested terrain at the intersections of public and private boundaries. Care is shaped byand in turn shapesinequities in power, divisions of labour, affective relations and discursive constructions. Care is deeply implicated in the social relations of gender, race, class, sexuality, age, and ability in global and local contexts. A Sociology of Care: Challenging Borders and Boundaries calls us to explore the possibilities and limitations of care. It raises questions around policy priorities and the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth and human resources. Can a sociology of care contribute to a way forward? We invite papers that advance our understanding of care as a social, political, and global process and/or strive to produce knowledge in support of a more caring society.

Session Organizer: Rachel Barken, McMaster University, ; Suzanne Day, York University,


Reproductive labor as alternate framework for understanding Care in the context of Migrant Black Female-caregivers: Engaging the racialized transfers of care.

Maureen Kihika, Simon Fraser University,

The expectation that female family members would provide care as unpaid work has historically been part of the ideology of capitalism. That this systemic labor segmentation is increasingly confronted by rising labor force participation of women coupled with higher numbers of populations needing care has created a potential ‘care deficit’. In responding to the predicted health labor shortages, immigration and labor market policies are in pursuit of agendas such as those enshrined within Temporary Worker Programs such as the Live-In Caregiver Program, to  facilitate the recruitment of “Other” women as a means of filling positions otherwise  difficult to fill. Although research has been conducted on the gendered nature of care - in the context of nurturance and emotion labor as ‘women’s work’, little reference is made to the seemingly racialized transfers of care - especially care within the realm of social reproductive tasks e.g. cooking, cleaning etc., or the racialized  women that are (re)assuming these “back-room” jobs. Broadly conceptualizing care as multifaceted, overlapping relational and non-relational service, this essay considers the experiences of paid migrant Black female caregivers in institutional and home settings, and the inequalities embodied within multiply layered and complex client-care provider relationships, as factors that influence care.


Exploring care worker struggle and resistance on the frontlines of long-term residential care

Andrea Campbell, York University,

Using a feminist political economy lens, this paper begins with an analysis of the state to highlight the ways in which the process and politics of production intervene and shape the organization of care work alongside the labour process in the context of neoliberal health policy reform and restructuring. Drawing on qualitative interviews with frontline long-term residential care workers, this paper also considers the various ways frontline care workers negotiate, influence, challenge, resist, reinforce and/or reproduce ruling discourses, social relations, practices, and conditions of their work as they engage in their every day and every night care activities. In doing so, my analysis aims to make visible the experiences and struggles of frontline care workers and the ways these workers shape the conditions of their work.


From the Individual to the Relational: Reframing Conceptions of Person-Centred Care in LTC Facilities

Karen Kobayashi, University of Victoria, , Amy Cox, University of Victoria, , Ruth Kampen, University of Victoria, , Denise Cloutier, University of Victoria , , Heather Cook, Interior Health Authority, , Deanne Taylor, Fraser Health Authority, , Gina Gaspard, Fraser Health Authority,

Long-term care (LTC) delivery is becoming an increasingly important issue as the Canadian population continues to age. Despite this demographic shift, research indicates that there are high levels of dissatisfaction among stakeholders – residents, family and staff – with the care provided. Recently, in response to the perceived shortcomings of existing models of care, a ‘person centred’ (PC) approach has been taken up in research and policy discourse. Such an approach promotes care as holistic, moving beyond biomedical understandings of the body.

Using the implementation of a care delivery model in a Western Canadian health authority as the context for our study, we examine recent restructuring in LTC facilities to address quality of care issues.  We find that growing expectations of providing PC care, coupled with the realities of health care management’s limited resources, create a chasm for staff to bridge in their work environment. Staff in these cases occupy the middle ground, and are left to bear the brunt of conflicting expectations.

This unique collaborative project, undertaken in partnership with researchers and practitioners, challenges the way we think about care in LTC organizations. We argue that conceptions of care should go beyond PC care, to underscore the importance of a relational standpoint in LTC delivery. That is, policymakers need to address the issue that dichotomising individual stakeholders in discussions of care undermines our understanding of the interdependence of relationships, the webs of ‘nested interdependencies’ (Fine, 2005) in which individuals are enmeshed in the LTC delivery system.


© Canadian Sociological Association ⁄ La Société canadienne de sociologie