Presentation Thelma Vilas Boas on the occupation project Lanchonete<>Lanchonete. Inventory/Invention Workshops. International Encounter Care as Method # 2, Saracura, Rio de Janeiro, 29th September, 2017. Photo: Josemias Moreira Filho

Care Will Be A Pedagogy Or It Will Not Be

Rafael Zacca

I do not know if care is possible. This is why I begin with this preamble.

In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire states that “no one educates anyone else, nobody educates him or herself, men and women educate one another, mediated by the world”.1 I do not know if care is possible. So I want to propose a little ironic playfulness to think about the possibility of care.

Let me explain. Recently, the current mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Marcelo Crivella, stated that he was going to “take care of people,” an affirmation that preceded measures of social, cultural, and moral control of the city (such as the dismantling of cultural centers and the partial reining in of street carnival, for example). “Caring for people” means, in the mayor’s reasoning, as in the discourse of many modern institutions – parents addressing their children, husbands their wives, teachers and directors their students, police officers the population, etc – to dominate. “Taking care of the other” is no kind of care. Nobody cares for anyone – people dominate.

The discourse that usually opposes the “care (domination) of the other” demands of subjects such a degree of individual autonomy that it seems as if it was calling for a selfmade man. One who is able to take care of himself: control his time, have emotional independence, detach himself, make his own food, take care of his body, expect nothing from others, etc. One can only do such things “alone” because of privileges (frequently of race, class, and gender), which if brought to the surface, would show that “care of self” (one’s individual mental and physical preparation, going to the gym, meditation, psychoanalysis, etc.) is also a forgetting of the social relations that underlie it. “Care of self” is no kind of care. No one cares for themselves – people forget themselves easily.

So I begin with this little paradox: nobody cares for anyone else, nobody cares for themselves, people take care of each other, mediated by the world.


Before I moved out on my own, people tried to take care of me: apparently I could not take care of myself, even though I was already surviving on a meager scholarship and via a half dozen jobs as a freelancer. They repeated the hazards and the first great difficulty: to rent a property, you need three times the rent amount, a security deposit and a guarantor. Everyone knew, and tried to advise me, that this entanglement of signifiers, surrounding the real estate security deposit, was posing the question: And who’s going to cover the expected loss? At the time I was listening to Belchior a lot. “Don’t be careful, don’t be careful with me,” the musician asked in “Antes do fim” [Before the end].2 He seemed to have in mind this sense of care, connected to security deposits [caução in Portuguese], from the Latin cautio, denoting a certain state of alertness, of watchfulness, from which English derives the word caution. It is a hazardous care relationship, for those who have to rent, – residing under someone else’s roof – constantly raising the implications of security deposit, someone in the end will profit: the proprietor – yes, the very same.

Before signing a lease, therefore, do not go in thinking that you are on the same level as the owner. Here the caução [deposit], the “care” that is taken, separates the two levels: he lives upstairs, you below, he is suspended above, you, on the ground. How can he trust you? Guarantee, guarantor, faith … all originate in the Latin fides, a word used in the first translation, made by Jerome, patron saint of translators, to replace the Greek word pistis, which appeared in the New Testament in the mouths of Jesus and his apostles.3 In Paul – as Agamben pointed out on January 25, 2012, when he recalled the identification of “faith” with “credit” – the word came to the mouth as “substance of things hoped for.”4

“Don’t take care of me” sang Belchior. He continued “the song has been approved / God is your friend.” In the album Alucinação [Hallucination], the complementary track to “Antes do fim” is called “Como o Diabo Gosta” [As the Devil Likes], where we can hear: “I do not want rules or anything.”5 Value, guarantee, rule: these things seem to go together. Those who live in someone else’s house know. It is the way, for example, “health and care” institutions seem to historically treat their patients – who, by their supposed lack of value, have their lives freely negotiated; where due to the breach of trust with the normative pact, are treated as “patients”, without agency, without self-determination, without autonomy; that, finally, by not making the rules, they must follow them, or accept confinement. That is why Belchior kept singing “and the only form that can be the norm / is to have no rules.”6

And if here, in this text, I allow myself to mix rental stories with stories of art and health with people in a state of fragility, it is because it is not accidental that the idea of a “residency” traverses the vocabularies of family, medicine and art. Faced with so many proprietors (individual and collective), it is difficult to speak of care without the refrain of the Ceará [north east Brazilian state] chorus coming to mind:

Never do anything that the master commands
always disobey never revere.


We hear often: take care in such and such a situation, be careful of that person, avoid harm – it seems that these ways of understanding care intertwine with (or are born from) the dynamics of controlling life. Usually, of course, controlling the life of the other – as in the case of the security deposit, which controls or obligates the life of the tenant to the proprietor.

Are there other forms of understanding care? Many – most of them ask of us a place of listening that in so doing we might apprehend their forms, so that they might take care with us of our meager ways of caring, so that we might make of this process a school. For example, in the context of the forced removals that intensified in Rio de Janeiro on the eve of the 2016 Olympics, a specific example of which is the Vila Autódromo community, the glossary entry on “care/care network” in Vocabulários em movimento /\ Vidas em resistência reads:

…one doesn’t need to be in Vila Autódromo for a long time to understand that there is a co-relationship between caring for oneself, caring for the family, the neighbors, the environment and nature. Taking care of the community and also its physical structure. The relationship between reproductive work (child care) and intergenerational care. Care is the fabric of the collective structure, which, in turn, is categorically erased by the neoliberal system of forced removals. One resident tells us that someone said: struggle is woven by many hands.7

The struggle woven by many hands that took place in the Vila Autódromo community teaches, in the first place, to name in the plural what we usually name in the singular. It also teaches that care can be the object of an act of weaving: it is not readymade, finished, it is not the obligation that we know beforehand (as in the case of the security deposit), but something that is constructed by many hands.

This is more in tune with another origin for the word care in Portuguese, that which comes from the Latin cogitatus. First, this refers to the moment when we “think about the other”; but we must remember that cogitatus is also a participle of cogitare. Cogitare, in turn, forms the prefix “co,” which signals joint action, and “agreement,” to act, to set in motion, movement. “Co-agitate,” or as a kind of “co-movement” care appears as a form that is necessarily collective, or at least of a twosome. Also in a more sentimental manner, in the sense that commotion is an internal engine that is shared: when we say, “I am moved” we also mean that we are mobilized by a fact that moves the other. As these forms also require new languages, new ways of saying, perhaps it may not be inappropriate to borrow a verse from Fagner, who accompanied me as I packed for my last move. In “Fim do mundo” [End of the World] he sings: “do with me a little care.”8 “Do with me” is an imperative, but it is also gracious, not because it is delicate, but because it freely asks to get closer and with that prevents the unevenness of relationships. “With me” means I implicate myself in the action; I am prevented from being alone, from conceiving alone.

In the traditional sense of care, the one that considers a negotiation between proprietors and non-proprietors, and therefore conceives a vertical relationship, someone always defers or “suspends” their interests: for example, money (property, payment for service, etc.) defers the desire of the proprietor, who does not enter into the relationship, in order to be able to, from above, control better. “Do with me” rather demands a leveling of the relationship. The implication of “me” in the process impedes a proprietary “I”: its desire cannot be deferred or suspended but rather remains grounded.

In the struggle against property, against the proprietor, against the self, the collective sense of care arises.

don’t be careful with me
do with me a little care


The Care as Method # 2 encounters, coordinated by Izabela Pucu and Jessica Gogan, took place over two weeks. Cristina Ribas and I were charged with thinking about the days we called “Inventory and Invention,” practices that traversed the program as a hub of exchange, work, and research around actions of art and care. These encounters aimed to function as an observation laboratory bringing together the practices of artists, managers, producers, and health professionals, Brazilians and Scottish, and the invention of some mechanism that might pull from the collective conversations, methods that could be translated into different contexts. It was an attempt to create an inventory and invent methods of care.

It was not surprising that this word – “method” – caused some discomfort in the encounters. Now, if the “method” is a pre-established path, which can tailor any object to its procedures, how can it be attuned to a kind of care, which first seeks to know, observe, and listen, and then elaborate with that object – people or things – the path to be traveled? How can a methodical practice be liberating? That is, how can a practice that orders and normalizes actions be liberating, if it is precisely by order and normative practices that modern institutions imprison, discipline, and exterminate difference? What care would there be in “method”?

It was precisely these modern institutions, or even more so their formative discourses and the thinking that supported them, that hijacked the meaning of the word “method” as a mere tool of instrumental reason. Since at least The Discourse on Method the word is associated with a subject who dominates, scrutinizes, divides, and clarifies its object via a set of rules. But this regulation of method is recent in the history of the concept. In its origin, “method” did not designate a legislation with which the subject framed its object, but rather the unveiling of a path to be discovered in the construction of knowledge. Therefore, it did not have a normative nature, but one of movement: it is not the static that determines the methodical procedure, but the dynamics, the walking.

During Care as Method # 2, Arlindo, an artist who works at the Ateliê Gaia – a collective studio run by Bispo do Rosário Museum of Contemporary Art (mBrac)]9 comprising artist residents who were former asylum interns – presented his performative action Tresformance. Arlindo lived with the famed outsider artist and museum namesake Arthur Bispo do Rosário when they were both imprisoned in the same asylum pavilion decades ago in the Colônia Juliano Moreira. He presented us with an image of Bispo, one that did not explain and clarify the facts of his life. Instead, he interpreted it, incorporated it, and simultaneously staged in his own body the apparatus of the asylum system. In front of Bispo’s former cell, entrusting his plans only to Diana Kolker, education manager of mBrac, Arlindo brought together in his performance elements of his contemporary surroundings – such as a pool of water from a recent rain shower, the abandoned cells as they remain in the former complex, a bottle of Coca-Cola, etc., – as little reminiscences of the past, which he made present with his body. There is, in Arlindo’s choice, a method: something that mobilizes in one way, and not in another, the attempt to build knowledge about Bispo do Rosário, about himself, about the institution we visited, about the history of practices of confinement in Brazil, and finally on the role of performance and interpretation as agents of knowledge. There is also here a method of mBrac that contradicts the dominant practice and method of our institutions, one that establishes itself as a historical detour from normative practices, not only by not impeding a patient’s agency, but also by entrusting him with, even if only partially, the accounting of the very important cultural capital of the institution – the memory and history of Bispo. A more accurate and time-consuming investigation beyond the scope of this essay would allow for an understanding of the effort employed (quantitatively yes, but mainly, qualitatively – what effort? a sweat coming from which struggles?) on the part of patients, art educators, health workers, institutions, workers, and activists in the detour operated by this situation.

In this sense, the origin of the word “method”, which refers to the path to be traced (and not followed, as modern science wanted) is close to what Walter Benjamin once dreamed of, in opposition to modern geometric procedure, when he states that “method is detour”(Methode ist Umweg).10 The “method” can thus become a plan, drawn collectively (that is, between all and by all involved in the practices of life) to detour together. Perhaps this is the sense of care as a “method:” care can be a pedagogy, within which the “method” will learn its deviant humanity.


Without overcoming the verticality of “care” relations, without a collective practice, which can dissolve the difference between proprietors and tenants of those homes of health (whether cultural, social, psychic and physical), one cannot really care. This overcoming is not done overnight, not just with goodwill, and it is impossible for any textual insight to solve things. I limit myself to a modest hypothesis, drawing on – since care can be a pedagogy – reflections from the field of education.

This hypothesis is strengthened for me when I think about the comments of André Bastos, who, on the first day of “Inventory and Invention” of Care as Method # 2, attempted to undo the naive hope of the politics of “inclusion.” André explained that inclusion could easily – and usually is – a grouping process of certain subjects who become “targets” of a set of policies. This means that “policies of inclusion” are external to those who would presumably benefit from them, which could only be circumvented by an “insertion” that re-informs the very structures that formulate such policies. It is not enough to “attend to” certain patients with policies that assist them; it is necessary to “insert” them in the structure of the formulation of these policies so that they can be treated properly as subjects.

In that sense, no matter how inescapable the initial division between caregivers and cared for may be, it can be harmful to those residing in the care setting. The idea that caregiving processes and practices are “teachable”, the idea that we can study the actions of the most diverse agents (doctors, artists, patients, managers, etc.) and “translate” them into different contexts, can prepare institutions for a crucial turnaround. This is perhaps the dream of the “Inventory and Invention” encounters: rather than providing teaching and being taught, the pedagogy that is built there wants to invent a kind of common field of constant learning where everyone can be. By laying low like the timid field flower, pedagogy draws us to the ground, to our feet. Dissolve vertical structures and level the world: by which I mean that the “insertion” of patients into pedagogical and artistic processes can gradually engender new forms of agency in the world, and at the same time divest non-patients of their powers and privileges that sustain the world of control and that do not recognize the forms of agency of those who confine. It may be that care is a hope of deviant humanity.


Rafael Zacca
Poet, critic and co-coordinator of the collective group Oficina Experimental de Poesia [Experimental Poetry Workshop]. He is currently a PhD candidate in philosophy at PUC-Rio researching the work of Walter Benjamin. He collaborates with Jornal Rascunho and Revista Escamandro and develops poetry workshops in universities, schools, cultural centers and festivals. His poetry is published in Kraft (2015, Cozinha Experimental) and Mini Marx (2017, 7Letras), and the recent A Estreita Artéria das Coisa (2018). He is a co-author of Almanaque Rebolado (2017, CMAHO, Azougue, Cozinha Experimental, Garupa), a poetry workshop book.


1 Paulo Freire, Pedagogia do oprimido, 24.ed (São Paulo: Paz e Terra, 1997) 69.

2 Antônio Carlos Gomes Belchior, Antes do fim”, in: Alucinação (São Paulo: Polygram, 1976).

3 [T.N. The words fiança and fiador translated as guarantee and guarantor have the same Latin roots as “fé” meaning faith as such illustrating a clearer relationship between faith and credit as the author notes further on in the text.]

4 Giorgio Agamben on the programa “Chiodo Fisso” on the radio network “Rai 3” on Janurath 25th, 2012. (Link to the original audio:

5 Antônio Carlos Gomes Belchior, Como o Diabo Gosta,” in: Alucinação (São Paulo: Polygram, 1976).

6 Ibid.

7 Cristina Ribas and Lucas Sargenteli et al, Vocabulários em movimento /\ Vidas em resistência (Rio de Janeiro: Museu das Remoções / Goethe Institut, 2017) 17.

8 Fagner, Fim do Mundo in: Cavalo de Ferro (São Paulo: Philips, 1972).

9 [Editors note E.N.: Ateliê Gaia an artist sudio collective comprising former asylum interns that is also part of the Polo Experimental – a community cultural and educational Center for mental health users and families in the Colônia Juliano Moréia managed by the Bispo Rosário Contemporary Art Museum.]

10 Walter Benjamin, Origem do drama barroco alemão Trad. Sérgio Paulo Rouanet (São Paulo: Editora Brasiliense, 1985) 50.