Architectures of Gender II – Care Work
We are continuing the “architectures of gender” seminar series, focusing on the issue of care work this fall semester (2018).
Care work is at once omnipresent and invisible. It encompasses all forms of socially necessary – or reproductive – labour: raising children, cooking, cleaning, shopping, looking after the ill and elderly, and many other tasks typically performed by women on a daily basis both at home and within society. It is what allows for, and sustains, productive labour (including architectural labour) in the first place. At the same time, capitalist accumulation relies on care work to be freely available. Regardless of its social, material, and monetary value, care work hence not only remains unpaid. It is also frequently pushed out of sight. Much like nature, it is presumed to be a given; its performance by women often justified in biological terms by alluding to the more caring, nurturing female character or body.
In recent years, both the concept of care and care work have become central concerns in feminist academic and political debates. Demographic changes, environmental crises, growing mobility, transformations of labour, and the reconfiguration of “traditional” institutions of care – from the nuclear family to welfare state provisions – have sparked fresh critical analyses and theoretical enquiries. Prominent thinkers such as Nancy Fraser even speak of a contemporary “crisis of care” brought about by neoliberal capitalism, as we struggle to invest the labour necessary for maintaining social bonds beyond social media, and care work becomes increasingly outsourced and monetized.
Our aim in this seminar is to reassess notions of care work – both past and present – and discuss their significance for architecture and the man-made environment in a broad sense. Asking, for example, how housing impacts housework, we are going to examine the ways in which certain spatial arrangements from the domestic to the urban realm help to (re-)produce social relationships that neglect the significance of care work. But we will also study architectural proposals that have sought to imagine collective forms of care. Moreover, we are interested in the historical development of models, typologies, and spaces dedicated to care (almshouses, hospitals, care homes, hospices…). And we will ask, why in architectural design care and maintenance often remain an afterthought.
Weekly close readings of theoretical and historical texts, as well as guest lectures, will provide the knowledge necessary to furnish critical tools for a series of “fieldwork” analyses.