Brock University

A Sociology of Care: Challenging Borders and Boundaries in Negotiating Care Needs

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,


Understandings of Sexuality and Sexual Expression between Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities and Direct Care Workers

Alan Santinele Martino, University of Lethbridge,

This paper examines how individuals with intellectual disabilities and direct care workers understand and experience instances of alignment or disagreement concerning the sexuality and sexual expression of intellectually disabled people. The understandings of direct care workers are relevant because in their relationships with clients with intellectual disabilities, they hold a privileged position, and they may control or facilitate the sexual rights of intellectually disabled people. Conversely, the perspective of individuals with disabilities, in particular, can help us understand the power imbalances embedded in these relationships and show experiences of resistance, frustration and disempowerment. Drawing on interviews with individuals with intellectual disabilities and direct care workers in Southern Alberta, I use Foucault’s work on sexuality, power, and social control as a theoretical framework to analyze the disjunctions in these perspectives. Additionally, I seek to understand the operations of power permeating these relations as well as the ways through which individuals come to accept or resist them. This paper deliberately illuminates the opportunities and hindrances for individuals with intellectual disabilities in experiencing sexuality and sexual expression in order to influence the policies and practices in the agency level.


How do Age Relations Help Us Understand Care? Perspectives on Older Adults’ Experiences of Home Care

Rachel Barken, McMaster University,

A diverse body of research exploring older adults’ experiences of receiving care exists, but there are no comprehensive reviews of this literature. This paper systematically reviews the literature on older adults’ experiences of formal (paid) care and family/friend care at home. Extant literature, emerging from sociology, social gerontology, social work, and nursing, articulates many of the nuances, challenges, and potential benefits of later life care, but pays little attention to the ways age, as a form of social relations, impact on care recipients’ experiences. In this paper I suggest that an age relations perspective gives a framework for theorizing the complex social relations framing older adults’ experiences of care. Not only will this perspective help us better understand later life care, it will enrich knowledge of the ways social relations are worked out in older adults’ daily lives.


“Trying to prove that you’re sick” – Enabling equitable access to public care

Alisa Grigorovich, York University,

Neoliberal health care reforms have increasingly shifted the bulk of care of individuals to private homes and communities from health care institutions. Often these types of reforms have done so under the assumption that individuals who need care prefer to be cared by familial, rather than formal caregivers and assumed a heterosexual and heteronormative family in which a female child or partner is available to provide care. While the results of these reforms have had negative consequences for all women, these reforms may be particularly problematic for older lesbian and bisexual women who face unique barriers to accessing quality home care. Drawing on the results of a recent qualitative study of older lesbian and bisexual women in Ontario, this paper will present an analysis illustrating how existing barriers within the home care system can limit older lesbian and bisexual women’ access to public care.


© Canadian Sociological Association ⁄ La Société canadienne de sociologie