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Performing Care and Carelessness

Registration fee, contact for more details.
Public, Alumni, Postgraduate students, Staff, Invite only
Event type
Online and in person, Conference
Cross-disciplinary humanities research theme

Conference topic

Care is a topic of enormous complexity that is relevant to all of us. In a turbulent era, scholars from many different fields are returning again and again to consider care, or a lack of care, in political spheres, in relation to the environment, in a globalised world, in everyday life, amidst health crises, and in our mediatised and digital lives.

Care is both an affective orientation (i.e. ‘caring about’) and a practice (i.e. ‘caring for’, or ‘taking care of’). As such, it is something that is both performed, and performative; attached to embodied subjectivities, in which it takes on polysemic potential as a communicative and symbolic as well as relational act.

As intimate and everyday as it can be, it is also recognised as being both political and politicised; entangled with systems of power at both macro and micro/everyday levels.

As James Thompson observes, while care was once considered the province of the household, it is now ‘a crucial issue within public policy’ (2020: 41–2). This is perhaps especially true given that 21st century care politics have been deeply concerned with aims such as unmaking racial capitalism, cisheteropatriarchy, the carceral state, and the colonial present (Woodly et al. 2021: 891). A lack of care – or a carelessness, can also become routinely embedded in many social institutions.

As we acknowledge structures that represent barriers to care/ing, we can also acknowledge that caring despite these can stand as a form of resistance, an articulation of particular ethical commitments, an expression of collective identity, or an act of political imagination. As such, amidst shifting and challenging contemporary contexts, we consider how a call to care (for marginalised groups, for the natural world, for the people around us, and for distant others) can generate tensions and dilemmas. We focus on how both care and carelessness are performed, negotiated, and communicated, in both public and private settings, in response.

Conference and paper format

This will be a hybrid conference that allows people placed in Aotearoa New Zealand and nearby to attend in person, and for internationals if they cannot travel to attend online via Zoom. In addition to conventional 20-minute papers, we also invite presentations with a performance or creative or workshop component.

Submitting an abstract

Please submit a 200–250 word abstract of your contribution and a 100-word biography for each presenter by 31 October 2023.

Please send us your abstract as a Word document. Use your surname in the document title. Please clearly indicate the title of your presentation, the nature and timing of your presentation e.g., 20-minute spoken paper with PowerPoint, as well as your full name (first name, surname) and institutional affiliation (if relevant).

Please send your abstracts or any enquiries to:

Theme administrator

Accepted delegates must confirm their attendance by completing registration and payment by 15 December 2023.

About us

The Performance of the Real is a University of Otago funded interdisciplinary Research Theme.

The project investigates what it is about representations and performances of the real that make them particularly compelling and pervasive in our current age.

At its core is the study of how performance/performativity, in its many cultural, aesthetic, political and social forms and discourses, represents, critiques, stages, and constructs/reconstructs the real, as well as the ethical, social, and form-related issues involved in such acts.



Ellen Murray


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