"Caring Across Borders: The Transformation of Care and Care Work" Professor Jennifer Jihye Chun for Global Dialogue

December 12, 2018 by Julia Barone

Professor Jennifer Jihye Chun has recently co-written an article that has been featured in Global Dialogue, the digital magazine of the International Sociological Association. The article discusses how market interventions and transnational circuits of care work have altered social relations and modes of belonging, from the moment of conception to end-of-life experiences.

Professor Jennifer Jihye Chun is an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, Scarborough Campus. Her research interests are broadly animated by questions about the dynamics of power, inequality and social change under global capitalism. In particular, she explores how people experience and make sense of the social, economic and political transformations associated with employment precarity and the intensification of new and existing social inequalities along gender, race, class and migration status. Professor Chun is also a member of the team heading by Professor Ito Peng that has been studying gender, migration and the work of care with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

The full article can be found here. We have posted an excerpt below.

The study of care is at the center of contemporary debates about the stakes of social, political, and economic transformations taking place in the world today. An unprecedented number of women swept up in the human flow of crossing borders in search of work reproduces new and existing patterns of inequality along class, gender, racial, and national lines. The “crisis of care” raises concerns about the costs and consequences of a profoundly uneven and unjust neoliberal economy, especially for the predominantly poor, migrant, and racialized women who shoulder the disproportionate responsibility of caring for others. It also points to the preponderance of low-paid, informal jobs to take care of children, the elderly, and private households as well as ideologies of care that mask and often devalue the labor involved in activities ranging from cooking and cleaning to sex, intimacy, and biological reproduction. Our analytic lens, which takes intersectional feminist analysis and the global political economy as crucial starting points, magnifies the often-invisible labor of care and its significance in sustaining everyday life.

Market interventions and transnational circuits of care work have altered social relations and modes of belonging, from the moment of conception to end-of-life experiences. The labor of love confounds how we think about care and conceptualize care as work. Commonsense understandings expect care to be given freely, a labor of love, rewarded in terms of its intrinsic use value rather than compensated either in the “profane” medium of money or in relation to an abstract right of citizenship. While all forms of care and intimate labor have been devalued, one burgeoning area of inquiry is the study of surrogate mothers who have not been accorded social, political, and legal recognition for their labor. Surrogate mothers’ labor is less legible due to the blurring of lines between commodity and gift exchanges. Intended parents can take refuge in the altruistic sentiments of the gift relationship rather than see themselves bound up in impersonal exploitative social relations and the increased commodification of intimacy and reproductive labor.

Read the full article.