The Radicalisation of Care: Practices, Politics and Infrastructures

The Radicalisation of Care: Practices, Politics and Infrastructures. November 19 & 20 2014. Open University of Catalonia, Barcelona. Organising team: Daniel López Gómez, Israel Rodríguez-Giralt & Tomás Sánchez Criado.

The concept of radicalisation is usually associated to a process by which groups or individuals come to adopt increasingly extreme or immoderate positions, ideals or aspirations. But it also speaks of the attempts at introducing fundamental or far-reaching changes in a certain area or field. Drawing on this second meaning, in this workshop we aim to explore a series of trends that lead us to think that we might be facing a process of radicalisation of care.

Firstly, we would like to focus on the efforts of feminist activists and academics claiming the importance of making care a public issue. This is possible through: a public acknowledgment of needs; the assumption of the interdependence of human and non-human beings; a re-distribution of the possibility of decision-making over those needs; a collectivisation of carework: and front-staging the emotional, corporeal and relational dimensions of care as important political and epistemic matters despite their usual dismissal.

Secondly, we want to pay attention to the way disability movements have raised awareness about the need to redefine care through concepts (and newly crafted practices) such as “help”, “support” or “personal assistance” (Winance, 2010). From their point of view, care has been traditionally linked to a medicalised and individualistic approach that turns those who receive it into passive, dependent and infantilised objects of care. Based on the so-called “social model of disability” (Oliver, 2013; Barnes, 2013), they have defended the need for a more ecological approach to help and assistance, bypassing the emotional dimensions and turning themselves from objects of care into subjects who take control of their lives and decide for themselves. More recently, this redefinition has recently been invigorated by a new wave of patient groups and health-care related organisations. By translating their own experience and needs into evidences, these groups have turned themselves into innovative co-producers and providers of new forms of knowledge and care services related to their own conditions (Rabeharisoa et al. 2014). As such, these actors have played a crucial role in democratising the governance of health and care issues.

Thirdly, yet another form of radicalisation of care –in this case, in its etymological sense–would be the effort of different collective movements to open up the back-stage, underlying, invisible, infrastructural and most mundane aspects of everyday life (Lampland & Star, 2009). Here we might mention groups influenced by a DIY, hacker, maker and fixer culture ethos, seeking to produce ‘open design’ technical aids or challenging and mending urban infrastructures. As studies of maintenance, repair and waste-picking practices have suggested, these activities are contributing to turn care into a political issue with regard to material infrastructures (Graham & Thrift, 2007; Gregson, Metcalfe & Crewe, 2009; Henke, 1999; Denis & Pontille, 2011). As these collectives say, leaving aside the care needed by these material infrastructures has dramatic effects given that it would foreclose: on the one hand, the possibility of shedding light on the vulnerabilities and frailties these infrastructures contribute to maintain and, on the other hand, the possibility of devising infrastructures based on these vulnerabilities and frailties.

Bearing all these threads in mind, we would like to empirically explore these forms of radicalisation of care via the following transversal processes:


Radicalising care usually implies practices of ‘making visible’ activities and topics usually disregarded. For this purpose, new ethnographic methodologies are being devised to render accountable in our inquiries those aspects and materials traditionally set aside in our reports. How could methodologies contribute to make visible these care practices? What are their consequences both for the practitioners and for the researchers? What is rendered visible and what is not? What is such a politics of ‘making visible’ contributing to?


Radicalising care has also been related to the ways in which different actors shape issues related to care as matters of public concern. What are the social and political actors involved in reshaping and redefining care as an object of dispute? What are the dimensions, definitions and normativities they oppose to? How do these actors turn care into a matter of collective and public concern? Are they mobilizing new repertoires of action, contestation and representation? What are the objects and subjects, the infrastructures and identities emerging from these controversies?


Radicalising care might also mean taking the materiality of care and the care of our material infrastructures as a political issue in ways beyond public discussion. For instance, devising new possibilities, bringing to life other material becomings that might lead to practice care otherwise. When and how does public discussion lead to the generation of new care settings and sociomaterial configurations? What sort of material infrastructures and care practices emerge from this? How are these explorations made intelligible, accountable and put into practice?


  • Madeleine Akrich. The Birth Plan: A « catch me if you can » radicalisation?
  • Blanca Callén. Caring for e-waste: Electronic vulnerabilities, material wears and conceptual limits
  • Jérôme Denis & David Pontille. Maintenance, the Care of Things and the Ecologies of In/visible
  • Rob Imrie, Charlotte Bates & Kim Kullman. Universal design, disability and the radicalisation of un/care
  • Joanna Latimer. Dwelling with dementia: body-world relations, participation and care
  • Daniel López. When tinkering is not enough: engineering peer-care communities for later life as caring for autonomy-enabling arrangement.
  • Andrew Power. Self-Building Safe Havens in a Post-service Landscape: How adults with learning disabilities are reclaiming the welcoming communities agenda.
  • Vololona Rabeharisoa. “Who cares? Combining genetics and psychiatry to explore the shadow zones of autism”.
  • Celia Roberts & Adrian Mackenzie. Brain-based parenting: learning the science of care
  • Israel Rodríguez-Giralt. Radicalising through presence: disability activisms in the age of austerity.
  • Tomás Sánchez Criado. Care in the (critical) making: Open prototypes or the radicalisation of independent-living.
  • Manuel Tironi. Toxic lives: matters of care, politics and bio-animacy in Puchuncaví
  • Myriam Winance. From «Rare disabilities» to «rare care». Some preliminary analysis of the history of the French category “rare disabilities”
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