Cristina Ribas. Protest: Marielle and Anderson, Maré, Rio de Janeiro 2018

Care Denial: Reproductive Care and Care as a Right

Cristina Thorstenberg Ribas

They say it’s love. We say it’s unwaged labor.

Wages Against Housework1

What is care? Who is responsible for taking care? Is to care an inherent capacity of life? Where and when does care begin? In which practices and bodies? Via which knowledges and even which institutions? As we try to answer these questions by, on the one hand, undertaking a sensitive and micropolitical mapping of care, on the other hand, we can begin to see how structures of power know very well how to block care.

Between caring and care denial we can map a multitude of positions and institutions: caregivers, male or female, in their more or less precarious relationships, whether of family, friendship or a professional nature; neighborhood groups, identity-struggle communities, various forms of social self organization; health institutions, hospitals, clinics, schools, kindergartens. The state. And of course, those who are cared for: children, the elderly and the disabled. Problematically, however, this list may still sustain a marked binary division between the caregiver and care receiver. So my interest here is to think through more complex networks of care. During the encounter Care as Method # 2 held in September and October of 2017 we had the opportunity of together exchanging experiences, analyzing and learning collectively. This article both draws and follows up on this experience and is part of an ongoing cartography in process.

My text offers a brief approach to care via a series of questions and is in dialogue with the talks at the Care as Method encounter given by Maria da Penha, Mariana Pimentel, Bianca Bernardo, Thelma Vilas Boas, Shona Macnaughton, Tânia Rivera and more. Where and how care is established in our lives has to do with something more vital, of an affective order, but also, it has to do with our rights. The right to be cared for. There is a particular clash around the meanings of care that I want to address. On the one hand care taken as a naturalized ability (and its relation to gender production), from which emerges the refusal to care for from some feminist perspectives (reaffirming that care is not a female ability or duty). On the other hand, from a macro political perspective, care is one of the first rights to be taken away as soon as an economic mode of “crisis” is instituted by the state (and by capital). It is not by accident that this operative mode of “institution of crisis” enables the state to further reduce funds to the public health system and to dismantle protections for various groups and minorities. In terms of care as a right the “institution of crisis” exposes  categorizations, paternalisms and modalities of violence. In turn, the loss of rights and the state of “crisis” generates a series of blockages, the effects of which are also a decrease in the ability to care. As such, this text aims to stay close to the domesticities of care (familial and collective groups alike) and the conflicts that arise from within it, but also to the institutions of care, that is, the institutions responsible for providing care, and the impossibilities that arise with the imposition of a crisis. In 2018, over the course of 4 weeks, I held a workshop in Rio de Janeiro in which we put into practice – and strove to incorporate in our bodies – the exercise of thinking and organizing networks of care and creativity.2 In a certain way this workshop was able to continue a series of questions that we worked on in the Care as Method encounter. Some of the women artists who participated had taken part in the 2017 encounter, others had not.

Care, understood from the perspective of human rights, includes, for example, the educational system; crèches; the public health system, in particular mental health care, reproductive care and reproductive health; the gender perspective against homophobia, lesbophobia, transphobia, fatphobia among others; as well as care agencies that intersect with other practices, such as those of aesthetic and cultural production. When focusing on the poles between caring ability and the blockages of this capacity, we can explode the separation between private and public, as well as between the domestic and social (or the common). This also exposes the connection between the micro and macropolitical dimensions of care. This text “thinks through and with” the importance of care in some social struggles as well as within current social and political projects and contexts and highlights key issues related to care antagonisms, strategies and escape routes.

A quick suggested pause: go to the link:
where you can listen to the work of Cecília Cavalieri: Taking care of a baby should not be a female task. You can listen to this while you keep on reading the text.3

Of course, this text will neither exhaust the theme nor be able to deal with all the related meanings of care, its capture and the blockages that emerge in the process of annihilating the ability to care (for). Rather I hope this article invites the reader to investigate something that I see as urgent for us to think through together. Before I go on, I must emphasize that what I express here is a non-specialist viewpoint. 4 I write drawing from my experience as a white woman, a mother, a person from the middle class who holds a PhD, etc. I hope that this text might be able to go beyond my own identity and privileges to reverberate within other affective, love and collective relationships.  The same applies to the feminist perspective I am working from: I do not speak from a feminism that advocates a categorization of women and a cis gender identity (in which only women identified by their birth sex would be included). I speak of a feminist perspective and a feminism that emerges collectively in action and in practice, in which the struggle against binaries in the production of gender and against the fascist control of the production of gender and life itself is fought.

In the Portuguese language nouns/concepts/expressions are gendered. Care, which is “cuidado” in Portuguese, is male. My proposal would be to change it to the female gender (using the feminine “a” instead of “o”): “cuidada” reinforces certain aspects that are historically associated with care and gender. This is the most invisible yet socially established form of care: female reproductive care. This specific type of care is carried out in the great majority by women, and by women of color, women in their families, women in situation of precarious labor. This care, however, is not limited only to the sphere of formal (and precarious, slave, and submissive…) work but is present in the lives of these women themselves – constituted as unpaid reproductive labor. Reproductive labor or reproductive care comprises all those actions that are developed around the care for life’s existence and sustenance. Reproductive care is the care of our daughters and our children so we can work, the care of the elderly and of the incapacitated for whatever reason. Care is woven into the background via the invisible infrastructure of domestic labor that cares for, feeds and nurtures (emotionally, culturally, etc.) the ‘productive’ portion of society. But reproductive care does not stop there: it extends to many other actions and modalities of care, which I will refer to later.

In this text I am interested in developing a definition of care within a broad and transversal perspective going beyond the understanding of reproductive care as solely belonging to the in the rising of a child, for example. In this sense we can ask: Who cares? How do we care for one and other? Which networks do we create and sustain? In relationships of friendship, family, networks, conversations, bars, at the beach and swimming in the sea? But above all how do we go beyond the practices of care upon our  alienated bodies, their objectification, institutionalization and control? How do we make of care a distributed knowledge drawing on perspectives of gender, race, class, different generations and more? And in this process foster the perspective of a care of life in common? Is there a way that we can both reclaim our rights and resist the various captures that take possession of care? Care might then reappear as a composition of practices and knowledges…

Is friendship a non-instituted network of care? (Note in my personal diary)5

In these circumstances I feel the need to emphasize some questions related to the meanings of care that are often identified with naturalized abilities. A notion that reproduces the relationship between gender and care, reinforces the mentality of the ‘super mother’, and, of course, also justifies the reproduction of class – because those who take care for a living earn less than those who hire the service. And this goes hand in hand with the blockages in the capacity to take care within the “institution of crisis.” My daughter’s care that I cannot deny, and the denial of the State to provide efficient and functional care structures… And taking advantage of the question I may continue: who takes care and how to take care of my daughter when I can’t take care? The school? Friends? Grandparents? Her father? My partner?

Reproductive Care, Social Reproduction and Feminization of Work

To some extent the denial of care, as much in the dimension of feminist struggles as in the annihilation of rights, addresses the ever-conflicting relationship between reproductive care and social reproduction. The concept of social reproduction thinks through the diverse forms of reproduction that characterize society as such – which means, what makes society reproduce itself and what sustains this reproduction (determining actions, values, etc). But it is also something where we become hostages more than subjects because social reproduction replicates modalities where there is little we can change, unless we position ourselves to actually re-work these same modalities – as some feminist perspectives have argued. The meritocratic structuring of society is an example of a mode of social reproduction. Patriarchal structuring can also be said to be heteropatriarchal. The conflicting encounter between reproductive care and social reproduction opens up some questions that enable me to outline a feminist perspective, following certain struggles and practices developed around the politicization of reproductive care.

Taking the term from Marxism and feminism, it refers to the ways in which a society regenerates and sustains itself – the forms of life and their ways of taking care of the bodies that compose a given group. The social reproduction modality of capitalism ends up creating vast “surplus populations” as well as austerity and unemployment in times of crisis. So the question of how to struggle at the level of social reproduction is not just about how to manage the welfare state of one country.6

Reproductive care within the current structure of social reproduction is generally invisible and precarious. By precarious I mean deprived of rights such as labor rights and/or insufficient remuneration. Reproductive care then manifests its strength because it survives – or because it attempts to survive – because it is the life force and survival for the systems that keep on turning it invisible and precarious. This generally happens to care in other social, political, and institutional settings. Instituted modes of crisis establish policies of control and precarization (e.g. several forms of social fragility and/or loss of working rights) that force an immense individualism, an anguish of “save yourself first.” The state knows that when interrupting the smallest strategies of care it will be enacting one of its most harmful powers: the power of interference over life.

Care in general is not organized by the State, of course, nor by capital. I venture to say that care is rather an affective energy that is part of life. Caring is part of accompanying the life process of others and ourselves. It is a value to be defended and one that must not be rendered significant solely within the dynamics of a neoliberal economy. In turn, the rights guaranteed by laws that provide minimum conditions for the maintenance of life – rights related to reproduction and health, “parto humanizado”(“humanized birth” a model developed in Brazil that stands for the mother as the main actor in birth labor) and legal abortion, for example, should be rights granted by the state, since they are related to the ability to care.The inefficient school and nursery system, for example, can be listed as one of the examples of insufficiency of a service that is also care, as well as other institutions that make up the social fabric and the state.

Many services linked to care, however, manifest the social and binary reproduction of gender – teachers, educators, caregivers, sex workers, clerks and secretaries, are mostly women, proving how social roles are still linked to gender. This is was discussed initially by Donna Haraway (1991) in the Cyborg Manifesto and is continued today by Cristina Morini in her work and in the book For Love or by Force – Feminization of Work and Biopolitics of the Body (2014). The author follows Haraway in writing that precariousness has always been a characteristic of work done by women, as has the capture of affective value (the ability to care, listen, love). But she also notes that today all forms of work are being “feminized.” That is, work in cognitive capitalism is becoming as precarious as the work typically delegated to women, just as there is also a capture of the capacity to care as a characteristic of contemporary work – a synthesizing of care.

Returning to what remains in conflicted in care practices and to the relationship between productive and unproductive work. If care was well organized by the state – I mean care as a right – it would be possible to cover “the costs” of much unpaid care, (mostly done by women) literally freeing women to work – or to have free time. Unlike the denial of care as is today imposed by the State, the feminist perspective denies the care of life as a specific and innate women’s capacity – particularly with regards to women who have been subjugated for centuries: black and colored women. No news so far. Faced with the reality that none of this has been resolved, new meanings and care schemes have to emerge. “We make our way as we walk” as the latino-militant expression says. Fostering feminist economies, care economies. Care produces its own temporalities and vectors of intensity. It is linked to the temporality of life, to agency, meetings, the ability to intuit and improvise, and as such to establish and reconfigure affective, loving, political, sexual bonds and more.

Conflict with your Daughters, with our Sons, with our Loves…

This desire for a fundamental liberation, if it is to be a truly revolutionary action, requires that we move beyond the limits of our “person,” that we overturn the notion of the “individual,” that we transcend our sedentary selves, our “normal social identities,” in order to travel to the boundaryless territory of the body, in order to live in the flux of desires that lies beyond sexuality, beyond the territory of the repertories of normality.

Félix Guattari 8

They ejaculate, shit measures
We deliver, bodies free lives.
If we choose not to give birth, it is to preserve freedom
Not to feed prejudice
Or control over life
We deliver free bodies

Cristina Ribas, unpublished

I wrote this poetry-manifesto in the part of a resistance to the rising conservative waves in Brazil. A conservatism that overrides the body of all women and those who actually ‘know how to give birth’ (quoting Carolina Veiga), and imposes itself on the intimate space of our lives. The frightening statistics of those how have died due to a poorly conducted illegal abortion show that about two thirds of women have abortions for birth control, precisely because they already have children. The prohibition and criminalization of abortion is taken as one of the main campaigns of Brazil’s conservative right, arguing as if abortion were the ultimate denial of care.9

Carolina Veiga, Sabemos parir

Carolina Veiga, Sabemos parir

Silvia Federici makes clear the impasse to which feminism may lead us. How can we fight for social transformation without coming into conflict with those whom we love? Without coming into conflict with our daughters, children, and partners? How can we question the structure of society without looking at the impasses that present themselves inside our homes? How not to deny care, given the accumulation of actions, gestures, and affections that become naturalized within women’s lives in relation to their beloved ones, without demanding a resubjectivation of ourselves and a restructuring of care work within relationships, families, networks, public institutions? In this sense it is necessary to map the construction of desire, of our desire … to make intimate cartographies. These questions reverberate with those shared in the encounter Care as Method when we tasked ourselves with thinking through relationships between reproductive care, domestic space, public sphere and work – questions regarding our intellectual lives, our productivity and more…

There are fathers who do not take care. It is not this negation of care that I am talking about, but this is also included. There are mothers who do not take care but of course the statistics are much lower. Rare are the mothers who give up primary responsibility for the lives of their children. They are mothers who absent themselves, who for innumerable and unknown reasons cannot cope with the many uncertainties and difficulties that a new life brings. And their detachment from being the main carer of their children exposes the inability of proximal groups and society itself to accept and take on new forms of care. This reveals the impossibility of conceiving of a redistribution of affections in the redistribution of care. I do not want to leave out of the equation that care also calls into question notions of individuality and modes of pre-individual composition, of productions of the self, and of the other – topics addressed in this magazine from diverse perspectives and experiences.

There is also an intrinsic relationship between care and the kind of agencies of care that institutions are able to mobilize that in turn depends on a certain “measurement” of care or in other words the force fields at play between those who care and are cared for. When such measurement “disappears” what might be happening is an imposition of care. I am referring to the work of the Italian psychiatrist Franco Basaglia and issues of and struggles against institutional violence in mental health for example.10 Care work is full of fusions and confusions because it extrapolates our individualities, crossing and activating that which is inter-subjective and pre-individual. But how do we address the necessity of transforming care in the day-to-day of our lives, without letting the conflict immobilize our relations?

I will continue here mapping out connections, as a militant researcher, but also as an artist. My militancy and my aesthetic production mix together. With these tools in hand and embodied, I ask myself which simulations of these new agencies, conflicts and paths are possible beyond the discursiveness of politics? Here, I am absolutely denying that political action is the only way to organize practices and knowledges. To deal with this and to think through what I personally might be able to transform, I have been exploring forms of collective enactment using esthetic experimentation and theatrical improvisation as tools. This further adds to an articulation between the arts and militancy, as this experimentation can only happen collectively and via the invention of several aesthetic processes. This is something I expand on in a longer version of this text (in process).11

The Care of the Carers … There’s Always a Lag: State Withdrawal, Crisis State, Mental Health, Necropolitics

Using the fallacy of the “economic crisis” narrative, the aim is to overthrow hard won rights that, when completed, it will be black and poor women, living in the peripheries, especially in the favelas, who will be even more vulnerable to violence and institutional racism impregnated in the pores of Brazilian social formation. It is therefore a question of building common sense understanding and actions that overcome the conditions and change the correlation of forces, making them more favorable to life, rights and human dignity.

Marielle Franco, 201712

This text by former Rio de Janeiro councilwoman and activist by Marielle Franco – tragically assassinated in March 2018 – addresses a number of issues about the lives of black women and favelas in relation to the “institution of crisis.”13 The ordering of and subsequent investigation into the murder of Marielle Franco – silenced by militiamen who are also known to hold positions in public policy – marks yet another drastic action of misogynist, racist and lesbophobic policies and their own mechanisms for maintaining privilege. Those who ordered the assassination have not yet been named. Neither has it been explained why the public cameras that should have recorded the killing that night of March 14th 2018 in Estácio district in Rio de Janeiro were switched off.

Marielle Franco, foto de Leon Diniz, 2016

Cristina Ribas_Manifestação Maré, 2009

Shortly after the murder, another woman died. Vera Lúcia was one of the founders of the Mothers of May movement in São Paulo.14 The movement emerged in the wake of the murder of their children in the cycle of conflicts between the police, militias and the drug gang Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC First Capital Command) that killed over 500 young people without any evidence of their involvement in crime. Killing without investigation denominates what in Brazil is known as a death penalty without judgment and without imprisonment.15 In 2006 Vera Lucia lost her pregnant daughter and son-in-law. Twelve years after this crime Vera Lucia committed suicide. She bade farewell to life slowly, full of pain, depressed and lonely, as narrated by Arthur Stabile. She died tired of the struggle that brought few changes to the lives of those women who had already lost their loved ones, as well as to those of women and families in poverty. After all, the State that had already taken their lives, neither granted rights to care and be cared for nor social assistance, and provides no reparations for that loss. Is this not a State that denies care?

As far as everyday rights are concerned, it is not uncommon for us to hear on the streets of Brazil that the Bolsa Família [Family Social Assistance] program is not necessary. Silvia Federici observes that with the separation of productive and “unproductive” work – that of care – women and those for whom reproductive work is assigned stand outside the rebellion against capital. She explains: if women’s “reproductive” work is considered “unproductive” in the heteropatriarchical order, this also means that the very struggle is undervalued and even dis-considered as a critique to the system – which is actually exploitation. What women’s struggle does, apart from advocating against the invisibility of reproductive work performed mostly by women, is to expose the nature of exploitation as the common condition of labor in general, not only of reproductive work. And of course, the central affirmation of “yes we have the right to rebel against capital,” as demanded by the famous Wages for Housework movement of the United States in the 1970s.16 In this sense, being “work,” the remuneration of a program such as the Bolsa Família must be considered as a right. That is to say, a program like this is nothing less than the minimum remuneration for work that is done “in-doors” but whose benefits spread to society and to the productive system as a whole.

Returning to the relationship between the productive system and exploitation, it must be said that the economic system is already exploitative and does not guarantee even minimum mental health – it is no surprise then that we have never heard so much talk of mental health as we have recently. The autonomy and freedom of labor choice of which the neoliberal system boasts, in turn entirely related to schemes of meritocracy and privilege, brings with it the system’s unconscious effects: depression, alienation, and exhaustion. Effects that are repressed, not assumed, and not problematized. And the system of work is by no means inclusive of everything, nothing new, again – to which the resistance to work (deny work!) and attention to free time also strives. When we talk specifically about care in relation to work and productivity, it must be assumed that care develops other forms of productivity – other than exploitation as the main means of social relation. This means that there are also other forms of so-called “unproductiveness,” that may incorporate fighting for the freedom to create and to struggle and for the right to struggle and to have rights – contrary to the increasingly instituted necropolitics that institutes control over life as its operative mode of politics.

The Value of Care in Social Struggles

Fear is the weapon of the weak. My grandma always told me.
Vocabulários em movimento /\ vidas em resistência,

Ribas, Sargentelli (et all) 201717

There is a conflict between reproductive care and social reproduction, but there is also a productive space that is not always visible or considered – since reproductive care is socially disregarded as work when it happens outside of professional relationships. Even when it stands as a field of struggle ‘within’ social struggles and in the face of other struggles, reproductive care tends to be set apart. We know that in many social movements men are the ones who take on the talk about the movement. Because they are less engaged in the act of caring, they are able to develop sufficient discursivity to think and consequently lead demands, modes, conclusions, and referrals. This ends up making the value of reproductive care invisible and somehow separates the said intellectual work from so-called unproductive work. In some contexts, however, forms of care are exactly the point of articulation of the struggles – as is the case of Vila Autódromo resistance, for example, in Rio de Janeiro, in which women’s protagonism became evident in the struggle for housing. In other struggles, such as the defense of water and natural resources, against police violence and in the demand for public services, women also take the lead.

While claiming for the right to their own life and for the right to defend it, impoverished classes, already subjected to a series of exclusions, find themselves in the process of resistance being subjected to even more repression. In the case of Vila Autódromo, in Rio de Janeiro, the artist Lucas Sargentelli and I, over the course of a few months, followed the history of the resistance of the families who had decided not to leave the territory where they had built their lives. In the lead up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics the “marvelous” city of Rio de Janeiro, as is its moniker, was subjected to various economic and political mega-operations. When “accompanying” the narratives of their resistance, listening to the rioters-inhabitants, we produced a glossary of terms and values referring to the struggle of these families, which we called Vocabularies in motion /\ Lives in Resistance.18 In this work, a series of aspects emerged that were particular to the community’s struggle that broadened the scope of the struggle for housing. In our conversations, notions of care, care networks, community support, and the protagonism of women in the struggle emerged as key, as has been already analyzed in diverse research initiatives and articles.

Marcela Munch and Alana Moraes are (militant) researchers who write about the gender perspective in organized social struggle. Munch wrote one of the books that became a reference for our glossary in which she analyzes the various oppressions that have occurred in the case of Vila Autódromo from a decolonial perspective: Direitos Humanos e a colonização do urbano – Vila Autódromo na disputa (Human Rights and the Colonization of the Urban – Vila Autódromo in Dispute, 2017). Alana Moraes, on the other hand, writes about the housing movement in São Paulo in the article “Ocupar fazer funcionar e escapar: pensar as mulheres sem teto” (To Occupy, Make work, and Escape: Think Roofless Women). She says:

In 1978, it was the work of production that constituted itself as strategic in the struggle against capital. In 2017, however, squats arise with the ever-invisible work of reproducing life. In 1978, it was productive capital who calling the shots. In 2017 it is finance capital, the one that inhabits the emptiness of the land and that escapes to all the dimensions of life making us indebted subjects. With the restructuring of production and the displacements in the capital-labor relation, today the reproduction of life seems to be our battlefield, our last trench.19

In the encounter Care as Method, one of the key Vila Autódromo activists, Maria da Pena told us about her community’s struggle in a panel discussion mediated by the psychologist and professor Eduardo Passos, titled “Residir e ocupar como método” [Reside and Occupy as Method]. Penha’s speech and the subsequent conversation summed up what had at the time been a very recent experience editing the glossary. During our conversations at the Vila Autódromo we noticed in the conversations with Maria da Penha Macena, Natália Macena, Sandra Maria, Denise, Luiz Cláudio Macena and with other residents that the first statement that emerged as a common struggle of the Vila was the defense of the home and the right to have a home in that occupied territory.20 The more we talked, the more the value of care became evident. The way Maria da Penha prepared the food to be shared in the activity in the Church, how she welcomed us into her home, took care of my daughter, and more. She showed me that it was also the ethics of care that enabled them to withstand the tremendous violence of the previous years, manifested in various forms of control over their lives such the interruption in their water supply, police repression and psychological pressure. We wrote in the glossary:

[…] There is here a co-extension between care and care of self, care of family, neighbors, surroundings, and nature. […] Care provides a social fabric for the collective structure that the neoliberal system of removals categorically strove to wipe out.21

They also told us that they were still recovering and recuperating. Whilst they had managed to stay in the Vila, the years of fear and the loss of both neighbors and neighborhood in the process of the evictions took its toll. Denise told us that she hesitated many times. She lost her elderly sister in the removals, probably as a consequence of that violence. She was one of many forced out in the removals. In our two-hour conversation she told us that amongst the women in the resistance “one wanted to show to the other that they were strong.”

Care is not naturalized in Vila Autódromo as a “women’s” thing. The struggle to antagonize what is socially established as the role of women is also present in social struggles. In Vila Autódromo we got to know Sandra Regina, for example, who does the “heavy duty” work usually delegated to men: repairing pipes. In the text of Alana Moraes she writes that: “in occupations, a constant effort and attention to the production of relations is necessary, maintaining of ties, fostering belonging, listening to each other […]. The world of the reproduction of life is the one we see – between tents and collective kitchens.”22 In other words, the gender perspective may in part reinforce the capacity of caring, but not just for women. There is instead a radical redistribution of care. In occupation, the collective kitchen becomes another key element in the struggle against private property, against the alienation of lives.” In this other regime of organization of collective life, female labor appears in all its importance. The kitchen is a privileged space for the creation of leadership. Where politics and life mix.” The kitchen collects emotions, becomes the meeting place where conversations about life experiences are sensibly heard and understood in terms of their commonalities and their singularities.

However, it seems to me that the term feminism does not yet have widespread use in these contexts. Sandra Maria responds to the question if she would describe the Vila’s struggle as feminist:

I do not personally identify with the term feminism. I am part of this women’s resistance. If I’m a feminist, I do not know. May be I am. […] We’re not talking about two people who have equal rights. You’re talking about people who have rights to centuries and people who have no rights at all. Equality is not superiority. I am a woman who fights for social equality. Of course we understand that for you to achieve equality, you have to act with difference. In the case of racial quotas, there are people who say that this is a privilege. This is not privilege. It is an attempt to reverse a process of social injustice. If you do not use this kind of mechanism, the logic will never be reversed. There are several different situations where women can gain their space in society.23

Cristina Ribas. Dream-Desire Diagram, Vila Autódromo

Re-Composition of the Capacity To Care For

In the face of the conflict between reproductive work (invisibility) and the blocking of the ability to care, what happens when we rethink the idea of “care as a method”? As a quick response, I would venture to say that care becomes method if it is embodied in the dynamics of the organization of our lives and our struggles. As noted previously, the evidence of the value of life is something I would venture to say (because I say it for myself, too) that a feminist perspective draws our attention to.

Contrary to what Alana Moraes says, I think that, yes, capitalism has in some way “invented” the sexual division of labor. Although, I agree and learn when she says that what capitalism did was “to establish a definite hierarchy between paid labor (productive) and unpaid (reproductive) work” – an “expropriation of collective modes of reproduction of life.” In occupations, however, as she notes, “jobs” are not paid and function based on other dynamics that have to do with implications, responsibilities and prestige. This speaks to the potential of the organization of work, time, and reproduction of life. By organization we mean political and micropolitical organization: it is not a question of reproducing modes, learning from other groups, occupations and movements, but it is about entering in sync with the micropolitics of relations, desires, capacities.

Facing the state of crisis and the institutions of work and property as productive modes that function, as we know, within a dynamics of a white and heteropatriarchal society, reinstating our capacities to be able to say “now I am no longer afraid” becomes fundamental to survival amidst such social antagonism. The decomposition of the capacity to care has therefore not only to do with the constant subsuming of the capacity to care for/of – with emotional and corporal exhaustion – and the blockages that the state imposes. It also has to do with the deployment of affectivity within day-to-day consumerism that may conceal such manipulation amidst the ordinariness of everyday life e.g. the use of women’s voices to regulate public transport or women’s employment in the service industries, such as the call center. So, in the face of the resumption of affection and care, Moraes speaks of the importance of building “implications and belongings”: “This other politicity, a politics in the feminine, that reveals the problem of the maintenance of life itself, where bonds and care are central axes of mobilization and collective action.”24

In order to reclaim care from its lines of capture and the various forms of blockage, it is necessary for us to be able to devise ways of organizing that go far beyond (and initiate well before) the individuality of our bodies or the nuclearity of our most immediate relations of reproduction. Situating care in networks, in common, is a path that helps us conceive the possibility of maintaining life through micropolitical ties, ones not dominated by alienation and subjectivations that produce the “independent” neoliberal subject (which only applies to the ideal of a patriarchal white man emancipated and free from the responsibility of caring.). But it is necessary to keep in mind that the right to be cared for and the right to be alive (the services that the state must accomplish) and the provision of care as a right are absolutely interconnected. That is, both corroborate in the maintenance of care as a power linked to the production and reproduction of life, ensuring a non-violent relationship between the lives involved.

Beyond the fascist blockades, the emergence of the need (and desire) to be taken care of has to be heard, as a right, in order for the retuning and re-subjectivization that are part of the processes of care. As such, care relationships depend on many kinds of learning and on inventions that articulate the autonomy necessary for the fostering of that productive space between social reproduction and reproductive labor. Deny care strategically, deny so that new configurations and recombinations might be possible. Bring into play experimental forms of organizing care… But above all to point out the denial of the state, without doubt key to stopping the imposition of power and control over life processes (and care processes). These realignments depend upon dynamic movements, ones that are essential to guarantee negotiations in care relationships and through which we can invent and reinvent the intricacies – the interweaving paths and passages – of social relationships, of families and groups, and, of course, love itself.

Additional references
Haraway, Donna. Manifiesto para cyborgues. Buenos Aires: Letra Sudaka, 2018.
Zechner, Manuela. “Subjetividade e coletividade: problemas de relação” In: Cadernos de Subjetividade, 2010. Núcleo de Estudos da Subjetividade, PUC-SP.
________________. “A politics of network-families? Precarity, crisis and careful experimentations”. In: Plotegher, Paolo; Zechner, Manuela; and Hansen, Bue. Nanopolitics handbook. The Nanopolitics Group. Wivenhoe / New York / Port Watson: Minor Compositions/Autonomedia, 2010. (183-194)
Federici, Silvia. “Precarious labor: A feminist viewpoint”. In: Variant (n. 37), Spring/Summer 2010.




Cristina Ribas
Works as an artist, researcher and curator. Born in 1980 in Brazil. She develops projects in the interface of politics and aesthetics, militant research and radical pedagogy. She holds PhD from the Art Department of Goldsmiths College, University of London (2017). In 2011 Cristina created the open platform from the research and archive Arquivo de emergência. More recently she conceived and edited the book Political Vocabulary for Aesthetic Processes, gathering several authors. In the past year Cristina has been developing the workshops Protocol to Intersect Vocabularies, which mixes up practices of collective or social clinic and improvisation techniques from the Theatre of the Oppressed. She is part of the network Red Conceptualismos del Sur.


1 Silvia Federici, Wages Against Housework (Bristol: Power of Women Collective and the Falling Wall Press, 1975) Available: [].

2 Workshop-process Redes de cuidado e redes de criação no Despina, (Care Networks and Creation Networks at Despina) Rio de Janeiro, held in April and May 2018 [] During this workshop a number of links were shared. Available: []. The workshop was parto f the Art and Activism in Latin American initiative sponsored by The Prince Claus Foundation.

3 For the complete reference to Cecília Cavalieri go to [’t-be-a-female-task-take-this-doll-with]

4 Care, as a field of study, is not something that I have pursued theoretically but it is something that I have been approaching from my own life experience and I have been addressing care from different approaches. I believe that the research for my thesis developed in London between 2012-2017 has much in common with the more intensive thinking about the ‘paths’ of care. The thesis tries to map a genealogy (although partial) of schizoanalytic cartographies in Brazil showing how cross-disciplinary research methodologies (in addition to transdisciplinarity) are created from the philosophy of difference, from anti-psychiatry, from institutional analysis. The thesis unfolds Félix Guattari’s concept of processual creativity and analyzes four theatrical devices – among them Ueinzz, a Brazilian theater company with whom I had the pleasure of working in 2015 while they were in residence in Glasgow and again in 2016 through a series of performances in Amsterdam.

5 In my notebook, from the Despina workshop-process, 2018.

6 Bue Hansen e Manuela Zechner. “Social reproduction and Collective Care”. In: The Occupied Times

7 About women’s genocide I recommend the article by Helena Soldberd. She made a film about the life of Jandyra Madalena dos Santos, a mother who attempted to have a clandestine abortion but died tragically. Available: []

8 Felix Guattari, “To Have Done with the Massacre of the Body,” 1973. []

9 Débora Diniz, “A cada minuto uma mulher faz um aborto no Brasil” [Every minute a woman has an abortion in Brazil]. 05/12/2016. Available: []

10A key reference is Franco Basaglia’s “A instituição negada” (1977) where he analyses the asylum institution and constructs a proposition that would end up in a law effectively closing the asylum as an institution.

11In the workshops on care that I developed at Despina I used theatrical improvisation to explore the idea of care networks and creation networks. The objective was to “(…) inaugurate a space to learn together, research, rehearse, relax and explore our experiences and strategies (…) to put into practice a space for creation and research that is not merely discursive, but also corporal and proposed by the group.

12 Marielle Franco, Mulheres, negras, pobres: sujeitos para uma cidadania ativa,” [Women, Black Women, Poor People: Subjects of a Active Citizenship] in: Tem saída? Ensaios críticos sobre o Brasil. Bueno,W., Burigo; J.; Pinheiro-Machado, R. e Solano, E. (eds.) (Porto Alegre: Editora Zouk, 2017).

13 In other texts I have been writing about how social reproduction and the State’s violence against black and poor women. See: “Vida pública de uma mulher” [link] and in the magazine The Brazil Observer [] (2015) and Cartografia destrutiva (forthcoming) 2018 .

14 Arthur Stabile, “Fundadora do Mães de Maio Vera Lúcia é encontrada morta em casa” [Founder of the Mothers of May Movement Found Dead at Home] 08/05/2018. Available: []

15 “More than 500 murders occurred only that month. Bullets fired by extermination groups in response to the attacks of the PCC (First Command of the Capital) still kill. The lives of those who ‘stayed’ changed completely. Emotional marks – and in some cases physical, in the form of illnesses for example – are countless. Each death of a mother shows just how lethal those shots were, of power and range extended beyond 2006.” Idem.

16 Federici, 1975 (idem.)

17 Cristina Ribas and Lucas Sargentelli. et al, Vocabulários em Movimento /\ vidas em resistência. [Vocabularies in Movement / lives in Resistence] (Rio de Janeiro: Instituto Goethe / Museu das Remoções and authors, 2017). Available: []

18Amongst the terms created to think through care and reproductive labor and to a gender perspective entries are: Love, trees, walk/mental health, conditions of dialogue, conversation, care/care networks, relax/recuperation, struggle/transition, woman, women that fix pipes/feminist economies, women’s protagonism, networks of support, reparation and mental health.

19Alana Moraes, “Ocupar, fazer funcionar e escapar. Pensar com as mulheres sem teto” [Occupy, Make Work and Escape; Thinking with the Women without Roofs]. In: Revista DR (online), 2017. []

20 [Editor’s Note E.N.] For more information on the Vila Autódromo and their struggles see the dialogue in this issue []

21 Ribas, Sargentelli , 2017, 17.

22 Moraes, 2017 (idem.)

23 Ribas, Sargentelli , 2017, 37

24 The exploitation of the ability to care generates exhaustion as well. Considering the gender perspective is necessary when we examine even day to day operations such as the Call Center or women’s voices that regulate public transport. As Cristina Morini notes: “Bio-capitalism guts the affections of men and women in so far as it tries to channel these same affections (attentions) on top of productive activity, with paradoxical effects. This explains why capitalism opens up so intensely to the use of categories typical of the bonds of love and relations, not between capital and labor, but between human beings: fidelity, infidelity, ethics, pleasure, amusement, relationship, desire.” My translation. Cristina Morini. Por amor o a la fuerza: feminización del trabajo y biopolítica del cuerpo (Madrid: Traficantes de Sueños, 2014), 72-73.