Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile; Núcleo de Investigación en Energía y Sociedad (NUMIES), Chile
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain
How can politics be articulated or at least imagined by ill, impoverished and abandoned communities? This article documents how care is invoked by activist groups and local citizens in their search for ethical recognition and environmental justice in Puchuncaví, Chile. The authors argue that in a context of prolonged and systematic harm, care emerges as a way to render their suffering understandable, knowable and actionable, and thus as a mode of intervention that instantiates politics in different spaces and at several scales. At the interfaces of feminist science studies, environmental sociology and political theory, this article examines how care acts as a grammar to enunciate problems and make connections deemed irrelevant by expert apparatuses. Specifically, the authors ethnographically track the capacity of care practices to create therapeutic spaces of affective endurance and healing, and to produce new forms of sensual and ecological knowledge about beings, things and relations. These different modes of caring and being cared for, it is suggested, underline the capacity of care for the politicization of harm and suffering: to re-arrange what is visibilized, valued and problematized in the face of intractable environmental crises – a crucial objective for collectives removed from every form of politics. Care, as it is articulated here, is not a coherent and predefined programme, but a fluid and adaptable ethico-political set of practices and potentialities always concerning specific individuals facing specific problems in specific circumstances. If care is to be mobilized to craft more responseable policy, researchers should think more thoroughly about these multiple configurations of care, and the disparate ways in which they can contribute (or not) to invoke new styles and formats, new sensitivities and possibilities for policy-making.