CUIDAR means CARE : A study about times, forms, and spaces of care within the household during the pandemic

Updated 8th December 2020 with English translations of recent reports.

CUIDAR study is a project elaborated by a multidisciplinary team of Chilean researchers intrigued to explore the changes in care practices that have taken place within the Chilean households since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived on national soil.

The members of this research team were already interested in studying care and its manifold manifestations in different fields of everyday life, ranging from the educational system to the labor market, and including questions of the body, gender, and mental health (i.e. Energici, Acosta, Huaiquimilla & Borquez, 2016; Rojas Navarro, 2019).  Since the eruption of the pandemic, we realize that these landscapes have undergone a deep transformation. This has, in turn, sparked our interest in studying and understanding this process as it unfolds to modify these different fields and scenarios, altering their traditional logics, and how care practices were commonly enacted in those settings.

In light of what has happened during the last months, we consider that it was not only the disease spreading that became a disruptive force in everyday life, where caring practices took place—both at a social and individual level. The pandemic has had a direct impact on how life is experienced in households. Due to the temporary closure of schools and day nurseries, the imposition of quarantine, the possibility—or directive—to work from home, and advice around physical distancing, certain caring needs that had been met outside of the home now relied on households, modifying how they work.  Our concerns as researchers have been to understand how this affects care practices, while wondering what ‘care’ comes to mean in this new context, characterized by a discontinuity in the care networks that we usually depend on.

But, we asked ourselves, how do we conceptualize and approach care and care practices in this new scenario?  Care is a frequent topic for social science research, but this does not imply that it is a field of research with well-defined borders and limits (Caduff, 2019). Aware of the effects that instruments have on the production of the very objects they seek to explore, we decided that in this study we would engage with a conception of care that has roots in scholarship in Science and Technology Studies (STS) (Buse, Martin & Nettleton, 2018; Latimer, 2018; Puig de la Bellacasa, 2017). Particularly, to elaborate CUIDAR study, we draw inspiration from three central ideas that can be found scattered in this field of research:

First, care is a complex matter that cannot and should not be reduced to a mere affective orientation or disposition. Care has traditionally and socially been homologated with a feminine trait, oriented mostly by feelings of affection. Inspired by the previously mentioned scholars, we aimed at debunking a certain romantic notion of care, that locates caring as something that emanates from within a certain interiority, as if it could be reduced to the simplistic idea that caring depends only on the will of an individual. As can be observed in our reports, such an idea has led to the popular and widespread assumption that caring is a daily activity that must be performed and sustained in households mostly by women. In the context provided by quarantine, this idea seems to be strengthened, as in practice women are the ones keeping the caring practices in motion—they are in charge of the necessary tinkering that is needed for them to remain operational.

Secondly, we argue for the importance of acknowledging the difficult and multidetermined character of caring. As Caduff (2019) argues ‘(…) care is often difficult for those who require it, those who receive it, and those who provide it’ (p. 789). It is by considering such complexity that we became interested in exploring the dimension of care that is linked to the difficulties and hardships that emerge from and by caring, and the effects that this may entail for those involved in these practices. Simultaneously, it was also our intention to highlight that caring—and the effects this has on the one providing care, and the one receiving it—is not dependent only on one individual, but rather on the networks in which he or she is involved. After all, to care for someone/something, we rely on all kinds of objects and things. It is a process that is produced co-jointly, in entanglements between human and non-human actors, in which different materialities, spatialities, and temporalities play a significant, yet many times silent, part (Buse, Martin & Nettleton, 2018). Hence, CUIDAR study aimed at underscoring these elements, and exploring how, and by way of what resources, we can care, and the costs associated with this.

A third and last element that we took into consideration was the generative aspect of care. Caring allows the production of shared worlds, worlds that are in constant relation with others, and which are sustained in the everyday and mundane practices that we perform. Care operates as a device of attachment, making ourselves part of processes, and this is an ethical and political statement (Haraway, 2019; Puig de la Bellacasa, 2017). In that sense, exploring how care unfolds in the current situation is particularly important, as most approaches in Chile—and worldwide—have attended to the urgent economical dimension of this crisis, but seem to have neglected other aspects of the same. Thus, exploring care allows us to highlight another dimension of our current situation while mobilizing an alternative set of affects, practices, and concerns (Tironi & Rodriguez-Giralt, 2017). Our study, in alliance with those surveyed, aimed at producing data organized in three key analytic dimensions linked to the everyday practices of care: temporalities, spatialities, and meanings attached to the process of caring.

With the abovementioned concerns and aims in mind, we have produced this study below. We offer the CUIDAR study as an ethical and political statement, by positioning care in local context in the spotlight.  With the data produced and analyzed, we have produced a series of reports which can be downloaded from our website, the first installments of which may be found in English translation below.

CUIDAR General Report (June 2020)

CUIDAR Gender Report (July 2020)

CUIDAR Childhoods Report (August 2020)

CUIDAR What Care Means Report (September 2020)


Buse, C., Martin, D. & Nettleton, S. (2018) Conceptualising ‘materialities of care’: making visible mundane material culture in health and social care contexts. Sociology of Health & Illness, 40(2), 243-255.

Caduff, C. (2019). Hot chocolate. Critical Inquiry, 45(3), p. 787-803.

Energici, M. A., Acosta, E., Huaiquimilla, M. & Bórquez, F. (2016) Feminización de la gordura: estudio cualitativo en Santiago de Chile. Revista de Psicología, 25(2), p. 1-17.

Haraway, D. (2016). Staying with the trouble: making kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press.

Latimer, J. (2018). Afterword: Materialities, care, ‘ordinary affects’, power, and politics. Sociology of Health & Illness, 40(2), p. 379-391.

Puig de la Bellacasa, M. (2017). Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in more than human worlds. University of Minnesota Press.

Rojas Navarro, S. (2019). Medicalización y neoliberalismo: imaginando otros futuros en los colegios. Revista Práxis Educacional, 15(36), p. 245-264. Tironi, M. & Rodríguez-Giralt, I. (2017). Healing, knowing, enduring: care, and politics in damaged worlds. The sociological review monographs 65(2), pp. 89-109.

Tagged: #Abuse #Affect #Fronteras #Child care #Class #Colonialism #Disabilities #Domesticity #Economy #Elder care #Emotional labour #English #Gender #Geopolitics of care #Housing #Migration #Quarantine #Race #Self-care #State power #Surveillance #Violence #Welfare state

04 agosto 2020 — Sebastian Rojas Navarro, Maria-Alejandra Energici, Nicolas Schongut-Grollmus, Samanta Alarcon Arcos

Sebastian Rojas Navarro, Maria-Alejandra Energici, Nicolas Schongut-Grollmus, Samanta Alarcon Arcos

Santiago, Chile

Sebastian Rojas Navarro is an adjunct academic in the Faculty of Education and Social Sciences, Universidad Andres Bello, Chile, and principal coordinator of, a collaborative website about matters of care. He is the main researcher of CUIDAR, the research project “Micropolitics of care: logics, practices, and engagements linked to mental health diagnoses and special educational needs in Chilean schools’, and alternate director of the “National Survey of Informal Care Within the Household”, funded by the Chilean government. His work explores the relations between STS, childhood, mental health, and everyday practices, from a perspective of care. Email: Twitter @sebarojasn

Maria-Alejandra Energici is an academic working at the Faculty of Psychology, Universidad Alberto Hurtado, where she also acts as chair of the Social and Community Psychology Area. She is currently the main researcher of the FONDECYT project ‘The body in the social’, and co-researcher of CUIDAR study, of the ‘National Survey of Informal Care Within the Household’, funded by the Chilean government, and of the project “Confined bodies” funded by Universidad Alberto Hurtado. Her research brings together studies about the body, gender, subjectivity, and new materialisms. Email: Twitter: @AleEnergici

Nicolas Schongut-Grollmus is an academic working at the Faculty of Psychology, Universidad Alberto Hurtado, where he is also the chair of the Social Psychology MA program. He is the director of the research project ‘National Survey of Informal Care Within the Household’, funded by the Chilean government, and of the project “Confined bodies” funded by Universidad Alberto Hurtado. His research topics are oriented to the social study of medicine and health. Email: Twitter: @nicoschongut

Samanta Alarcon Arcos is a sociologist and student of the Master of Public Policy at the School of Government of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. She is an assistant at CUIDAR and in the research project «Micropolitics of care: logics, practices, and engagements related to mental health diagnoses and special educational needs in Chilean classrooms». She also works as a professional in the Inclusion for Development Line of Study, at the Center for Advanced Studies on Educational Justice. Her work links gender studies, childhood, education, and society, from different methodological approaches. Email: Twitter: @samyalarcon