Doing care, doing difference. Informal care, emotional dynamics, and social change

Alessandro Pratesi, University of Pennsylvania


Broadening and intertwining the conceptual categories of care, gender, and emotion, this dissertation discusses the dynamics of inclusion/exclusion and the consequent outcomes of inequality people produce while caring for others. It reports preliminary findings relating to a micro-situated study of daily caring activities among upper-middle class caregivers, both gay and non-gay. The focus is on informal care, seen as a strategic site to grasp deeper insights into the interactional mechanisms through which normative structures of subordination or superordination are daily constructed. By looking at the inner interactive dimensions of informal care, it is argued that, in doing care, people create forms of emotional stratification at the micro-level that affect their social positioning at the macro-level. The consideration of gay and non-gay caregivers in a broader phenomenological perspective provides us with new empirical evidence on how deeply people are embedded in gender systems and cultural beliefs; but it also highlights how individuals, by managing the emotions involved in care work, create the conditions to produce social change. By putting emotion at the center of the routine interactional processes of informal care and pointing to the different dimensions of difference, the findings from this research show the necessity of new theoretical and methodological approaches to investigate informal care.

Subject Area

Social structure|Gender studies

Recommended Citation

Pratesi, Alessandro, "Doing care, doing difference. Informal care, emotional dynamics, and social change" (2008). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3328638.