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European Summer School for Cultural Studies (ESSCS) | Leiden & Amsterdam 5-8 July 2022 | Deadline for proposals 14 February 2022

In many practices, care practices included, time is not an arrow and entities are not brought into being just once, but keep on changing. Rather than fitting fantasies of control, such processes depend on endless tinkering. Such tinkering, if done well, is care.  (Annemarie Mol)

María Puig de la Bellacasa notes in Matters of Care (2017) that “care is omnipresent, even through the effects of its absence” (1). This raises the question of what care is. Is care primarily an affective attitude, a moral concern, a specific kind of labor, a sensibility, a form of responsibility, a type of guardianship, a feeling or occasion for anxiety or terror, or all of these things and more at once? Thinking with care is a pressing matter, especially in the face of the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic that has put a spotlight on the “care crisis” (Dowling) caused by financialization and austerity politics. The pandemic shows the limits of, and the inequalities engrained in, systems not just of healthcare, but also of childcare, eldercare, and environmental care. It illustrates the work and risk that care-giving entails and the exhaustion it can cause. And it reveals profound relationships—at the individual and collective level, especially that of the nation—between self-care and care for others, while raising biopolitical questions about the governing of populations and the role of self-care in the context of public health concerns (Foucault Society Must be Defended; Hermeneutics of the Subject).

Yet, the pandemic has also given rise to new forms and practices of care, offline as well as online, small- and large-scale, prompting in many a renewed awareness of shared vulnerability within our more- than-human-world. The notion of care has thus been central to current debates on climate change, both those informed by third wave neoliberalism (with phenomena like green and care washing), and those that attempt to rethink care ethics whilst decentering the human and the global North. These developments fit a more general trend that we can observe across the humanities and the social and medical sciences, where care has been rethought from a “somehow wholesome or unpolluted pleasant ethical realm” (Puig 8) to something much more ambivalent. Care becomes re-conceptualized as not just an ethics but a practice; a work of maintenance (Berlant) with positive and negative affective dimensions for both the carer and the cared for. It needs to be recognized as gendered and racialized, and should be thought of as more than human. Indeed, in debates on decolonialism and black feminism, for example, care ethics are increasingly positioned as “a radical mode of engagement and refusal—one that is firmly aligned with, rather than antithetical to, claims for justice and liberation” (Bonde Thylstrup et al. 20).

For ESSCS 2022 we welcome papers dealing with matters of care from cultural, environmental, decolonial, gender, literary, cinematic, material, affective, technological, and other perspectives, including meta-perspectives reflecting on what it means to think (with) care, not just in pandemic times but in times of climate crisis, in times of increasingly widespread precarity (Butler) induced by regimes of brutalism (Mbembe), where ever more people suffer from chronic (mental) health conditions, and where ubiquitous, often careless, digitization and datafication produce new forms of surveillance capitalism (Zuboff).

Questions we want to explore include, but are not limited to:

• Who and what is cared for, by whom or what, under what circumstances (historically and in the present)? What types of care work are there? And who and what are or have been left without care, uncared for? If care is not always enabling, what different implications can being (un)cared for have?

• What does it mean to care for what is no longer there? How does care relate to grief and mourning? And what repercussions does care for what is no longer there have for what is still there and for how we think being alive?

• What might it mean – and what agency can be derived from – adopting a stance of not caring or of being careless or carefree (and who can and cannot afford this)?

• How does care relate to attention and attending, to cure and reparation, and to notions of the commons?

• What tensions exist between self-care and care for others? Can self-care be thought as anything else than “a pervasive order of individualized biopolitical morality” (Puig 9) that is part of a regime of what the Care Collective calls “care-washing” (9)? And how can we heed Sylvia Federici’s call to “pave the way to a world where care for others can become a creative task” (184)?

• How do we think with (more) care? Is thinking with care the same as thinking carefully? Can care be an alternative to thinking? Can caring be thought not just in terms of an ethics or ontology but also an epistemology?

• How is care related, not only to Michel Foucault’s notion of biopolitics, but to the more general emergence of a “politics of health” (Foucault Society Must be Defended; ‘The Politics of Health’)? What does it mean to concern oneself with oneself, both historically and today, and how does the meaning of concerning oneself with oneself shift in relation to different epistemic moments (Foucault Hermeneutics of the Subject)?

• How can care help us rethink the institution of the university and its future?

• How might creativity and creative production (literature, film, television, art) become ‘caring art’? How is it able to open up new perspectives on care, to (re)configure the ethics and politics of care, and to help position it, across different scales, as “an enduring social capacity and practice involving the nurturing of all that is necessary for the welfare and flourishing of human and non-human life” (The Care Collective 5)? What forms of (self-)care are involved in acts of reading and viewing?

• How can care take shape in the online world in a way that goes beyond platform capitalism and embraces platform co-operativism or the notion of the digital commons (Kopitz)? And how can digital archives, including colonial ones, adopt a care ethics (Agostinho ‘Care’)?

The Summer School will feature keynote lectures and master-classes by senior scholars, as well as paper sessions in which PhD candidates and other young scholars address the issue of care in relation to their own research. Abstracts (max. 300 words) with a short bio (max. 150 words) should be submitted to by 31 January 2022 (Extended deadline: 14 February 2022). You will be informed whether your contribution has been accepted by 1 March 2022. Papers will be circulated before the conference and have to be submitted, in full (max. 4,000 words), by 1 May 2022.

For PhD-students and RMA-students at Dutch universities (affiliated to NICA or one of the other Dutch research schools), there is a possibility to earn 3 ECTS through NICA if certain requirements are met. For more information, please contact

The ESSCS is an annual network-based event offering interdisciplinary research training in the fields of art and culture. The network comprises the University of Amsterdam, Leiden University, the University of Copenhagen, the University of Giessen, Goldsmiths University, the Université de Paris VIII, the Lisbon Consortium and the University of Trondheim.


Pepita Hesselberth (LUCAS/ NICA), Esther Peeren (UvA/ ASCA), Kim Sommer (ResMA, UU/ NICA), and Ilios Willemars (LUCAS).

Confirmed Keynotes:

- Silje Haugen Warberg, Associate Professor of Scandinavian Language and Literature, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) – leader of the interdisciplinary research project on Caregiving and Literature as Remedium (CaReLit), exploring care and the caregiving role in Scandinavian contemporary literature

- Daniela Agostinho, Assistant Professor of Digital Design and Information Studies, Aarhus University – co-editor and author of a chapter on care ethics and digitization/datafication in Uncertain Archives: Critical Keywords for Big Data (2021).

- Miriam Ticktin, Associate Professor of Anthropology, The New School for Social Research - author of Casualties of Care: Immigration and the Politics of Humanitarianism in France (2011), and co-author of 'the Politics of Care' (2021).

- Kalindi Vora, Visiting Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies and Ethnicity, Race, and Migration, Yale University - Professor at the University of California, Davis - Director of the UC Davis Feminist Research Institute - author of Technoprecarious (2020) and 'the Transmission of Care' (2010).


Agostinho, Daniela. 'Care.' Uncertain Archives: Critical Keywords for Big Data. Edited by Nanna Bonde Thylstrup et al. The MIT Press, 2021, pp. 75-85.

Berlant, Laurent. Cruel Optimism. Duke University Press, 2011.

Bonde Thylstrup, Nanna, et al. Uncertain Archives: Critical Keywords for Big Data. The MIT Press, 2020. Butler, Judith. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. Verso, 2020.

Dowling, Emma. The Care Crisis*. What Caused It and How Can We End It? Verso, 2021.

Federici, Sylvia. Re-Enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of the Commons. PM Press, 2019. Foucault, Michel. The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1981-1982. Edited by

Frédéric Gros et al., translated by Graham Burchell, Picador, 2006.

---. Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-76. Edited by Mauro Bertani et al., translated by David Macey, Picador, 2003.

---. ‘The Politics of Health in the Eighteenth Century.’ Foucault studies, no. 18, 2014. pp. 113–127.

Kopitz, Linda. ‘The Interdependence of Care: A Conversation With The Care Collective.’ NECSUS_European Journal of Media Studies. Vol. 10, Nr. 1, 2020. pp. 243–251

Mbembe, Achille. Brutalisme. La Découverte, 2020.

Puig de la Bellacasa, María. Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds. University of Minnesota Press, 2017.

The Care Collective. The Care Manifesto: The Politics of Interdependence. Verso, 2020.

Zuboff, Shoshana. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. Profile Books Ltd, 2019.