"Care Work": The Aesthetics, Poetics, Politics, and Practices of Care

deadline for submissions: 
April 1, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Refractions: A Journal of Postcolonial Cultural Criticism
contact email: 

For Refractions: A Journal of Postcolonial Cultural Criticism’s second issue, we invite reflections on “care work” in relation to postcolonial studies, cultural media and practice, and institutions

Please visit our website for the full CFP. Please visit our submissions page for information on style and format. Deadline for submissions is April 1, 2023. Please send writing and inquiries to editors@refractionsajournalofpostcolonialculturalcriticism.com.


In her essay, “The University Cannot Love You,” Brenna Clarke Gray correlates the advent of remote work during COVID-19 and the decrease in female authored journal submissions. “Care work within both the home and the academy,” Gray asserts, “has always been more likely to fall on women’s desks, and even more disproportionately on the desks of racialized, queer, and disabled scholars.” Gray’s ensuing line of inquiry–“If we can’t trust the university’s capacity for care, what happens next?”--is timely and enduring. It invokes the university’s exploitive “holding patterns” (Zuroski) and systems of “predatory value” (Byrd), hyper-visibilized under COVID-19 and pervasive in many institutional spaces. In this setting, students and faculty of colour are often disproportionately “forced to care” (see Magoqwana et al)--expected to mentor students and educate faculty and consult on initiatives–duties of political necessity, yet often beyond financially compensatory models. JoAnn Trejo calls these added responsibilities for faculty of color “a minority tax.”  As Lorgia Garcia Peña asserts, these dynamics risk sustaining “the dominant structures of power while also securing the complicity of students and faculty through investment in ideas of unity, progress, and diversity that are based on whiteness” (Chapter 1). 

For Refractions second CFP, we invite meditations on “care work” as a phenomenon that is subject to, revealing of, and opposed to, exploitative systems of labour. What does postcolonial studies, and its relations to Indigenous Studies, Black Studies, Critical Race Theory, Feminist Theory, Diaspora Studies, Ecocriticism/Ecofeminsm, and Settler Colonial Studies, reveal about the labour economies of institutions, disciplinary tendencies, cultural texts and literature? What does care work look like amidst, despite, and in opposition to the capitalist neoliberal systems that tend to exploit it, and what other worlds, possibilities, and relations does it hold? What does postcolonial studies allow us to see about the economies of “care work,” and what does “care work” allow us to see of it–the institutional space it often inhabits, and the relations, knowledge economies, and dependencies, through which it subsists? 

We are also interested in expressions of care work outside the university. Beyond academia, anticolonial, anticapitalist thinkers and activists have read care work in, and across, public protest and assembly (see Simpson). Aside from the manifestations of care work in relation to institutions like the university, we are interested in the ways care work might inform literary and cultural interpretation, pedagogy, and methods of cultural analysis and making. What does it mean to read, watch, see, create, or listen with care or through care? How might such a practice bear upon, relate to, derive from, anticolonial or anticapitalist initiatives and political organzing, today. 

We welcome creative and scholarly submissions pertaining to the broad topic of “care work” in relation to postcolonial, anticolonial, and decolonial frames. A possible (though, by no means exhaustive) list of potential avenues are:

  • Institutionalized invisible labour and labour economies 

  • Interpretive, methodological, and analytical forms of care work in relation to literary and cultural materials

  • Care work as creative practice

  • Refusal as care work/Care work as an act of refusal

  • Contingency and precarity in higher education

  • Economies of knowledge sharing, circulation, and knowledge mining within the postcolonial discipline

  • Racialisation and cultural mobility 

  • Value networks in the university 

  • Neoliberalization and care work

  • Protest, collective assembly, and activism

Works cited

Ahmed, Sara. Complaint! Duke University Press, 2021. 

Byrd, Jodi A, et al. “Predatory Value: Economies of Dispossession and Disturbed Relationalities.” Social Text, vol. 36, no. 2, 2018, pp. 1–18.

Peña, Lorgia Garcia. Community as Rebellion. Haymarket Books, 2022.

Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake, and Canadian Literature Centre. A Short History of the Blockade : Giant Beavers, Diplomacy, and Regeneration in Nishnaabewin. First electronic edition., First electronic ed., University of Alberta Press, 2021.