Care: A Symposium in Praxis & Theory – 2020

CARE logoThe Mind’s Eye, a research & praxis initiative of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) in collaboration with Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) invites scholars, critics, visual artists, creative writers, activists, curators, and other cultural practitioners to submit abstracts for an interdisciplinary symposium engaging “care” as a praxis and theoretical framework. “Care: A Symposium in Praxis & Theory” will be held at MASS MoCA on Friday, November 6, 2020

Who cares? In our current moment, amidst urgent crises of public health, unrelenting forms of systemic social injustice, daily acts of heinous violence against each other and the environment, and blatant abuses of political power, we might ask, who, in fact, cares? Whose role is it to care and for whom? What are the costs, labors, and rewards of care? How are cultural trends of care (for the self, for instance) informed by sociopolitical, economic, and environmental realities? What praxes of care are at work in our homes, communities, classrooms, research and art? The word “curate” derives from the Latin “cura” or care; in the age of digital curation and self-fashioning, we wonder what forms of care are most generative? When might it be better to care less? In Care Work: Dreaming of Disability Justice (2018), writer, activist, and performance artist Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha presses such inquiries, asking: “What does it mean to shift our ideas of access and care [ . . .] from an individual chore, an unfortunate cost of having an unfortunate body, to a collective responsibility that’s maybe even joyful?” 

According to the Google Books Ngram Viewer—a search engine that charts the frequencies of phrases in books— the usage of “care” has been on a significant upswing in the late 20th- and early 21st-century. Concurrently, a number of emergent fields and theoretical frameworks are engaged with questions of “care”: ecocriticism, disability studies, intersectional feminist theory, queer and trans studies, and critical studies of indigeneity, ethnicity, and race. The vernacular of care is evolving, finding its way into critical and popular discourse. Care holds so much promise because of its multivalence. It is a form of world-making that fosters belonging, and it is simply practical: a must for our survival. “We take care; we must take care, because history has sharpened their edges; sharpened our edges,” Sara Ahmed writes in Living a Feminist Life (2017).  

Taking these concerns to heart, our symposium seeks to address the topic of “care” within a collaborative dialogue between the humanities, social sciences, and the arts. We invite proposals for presentations in a variety of formats: individual papers, panels featuring 3-4 participants, or roundtables featuring 5-6 participants. We are particularly interested in presentations that engage the topic of “care” from an interdisciplinary approach and welcome speakers from across fields. Suggested topics include:

  • Politics and ethics of care
  • Embodied forms of care  
  • Acts of curation
  • Geographies and temporalities of care
  • Aesthetics of care
  • Care as world-making
  • Recuperation and recovery  
  • Economies of care
  • Environmental stewardship
  • Autotheory and self-care
  • Examinations of empathy 
  • Philosophical traditions of care
  • Boundaries and practices of refusal 
  • Pedagogy as care
  • Care-giving and medicine  
  • Burnout and the limits of care

Keynote Speakers:

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a queer disabled femme writer, disability and transformative justice movement worker and educator of Burgher/Tamil Sri Lankan and Irish/Roma ascent. The author or co-editor of nine books, including  Beyond Survival: Stories and Strategies from the Transformative Justice Movement (co-edited with Ejeris Dixon), Tonguebreaker, Bridge of FlowersCare Work: Dreaming Disability JusticeDirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home, Bodymap, Love Cake, and Consensual Genocide, with Ching-In Chen and Jai Dulani, The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communities (co-edited with Ching-In Chen and Jai Dulani). She is a VONA Fellow and holds an MFA from Mills College.

Wendy Red Star is a member of the Apsáalooke (Crow) tribe and multimedia artist who explores the intersections of Native American ideologies and colonialist structures. An avid researcher, Red Star practices care of indigenous histories as she re-examines cultural artifacts and primary source imagery in her beautifully annotated photographs and installations. Red Star’s upcoming exhibition, Apsáalooke: Children of the Large-Beaked Bird will be open at MASS MoCA in June 2020.

Symposium Organizers: Victoria Papa, Assistant Professor of English (MCLA); Laura Thompson, Education Director (MASS MoCA); Amanda Tobin, Associate Director for School & Community Engagement (MASS MoCA)

For individual papers, send 300-word abstracts and brief biographical note. For panels and roundtables, please submit 600-word abstracts and a brief bio for each participant. Submit proposals to by April 25, 2020.