Toward an Anthropology of Self Care

“Self care” has become a ubiquitous buzzword attached to a variety of practices (including social media and celebrity, entrepreneurship, political action, and the fitness, wellness, and food industries) and has reshaped notions of leisure, work, health, and travel.  At the same time, scholars, journalists, and activists have criticized this term as a rebranding of preexisting exclusionary practices around ability, race, class, shape, size, and access.

Outside anthropology, “self care” has been theorized relationship to a number of socio-cultural trends such as digital bio-citizenship and “health at any size” discourses in fat studies (Meleo-Erwin 2010, Berg 2017); it has also been analyzed with theories of access, participation, and technology in disability studies (Ellcessor 2016); and within media studies in relationship to self performance and neoliberal self branding within social media spaces (Marwick 2013, Banet-Weiser 2018).

While the term “self care” is not ubiquitous in the anthropological literature, the practices and problems it encapsulates have long been topics of inquiry, in a long line of thought following Foucault that explores biopolitics, the tending to the body and the care of the self under (neoliberal) capitalism. Recent work in anthropology on how care functions (Cox 2015, Williams 2018, see Black 2018 for a review) and the commodification of carework (see Constable 2009 for a review) points in promising directions.  In this vein, this panel seeks to articulate a relationship between the term and the field, asking what anthropology contributes to an understanding of “self care”.  We invite papers from across geographical areas and areas of inquiry that critically interrogate the role of “self care” in a variety of practices, ideologies, and formations.

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words to Ruti Talmor ( and Elizabeth Affuso ( by April 2, 2019. Panelists will be notified of their acceptance by April 4, and will need to complete registration by April 10.

References Cited

S Banet-Weiser. 2018. Empowered: Popular Feminism and Popular Misogyny. Duke University Press.

S Black.  2018.  The Ethics and Aesthetics of Care.  Annual Review of Anthropology 47: 79-95.

S Constable.  2009.  The Commodification of Intimacy: Marriage, Sex and Reproductive Labor.  Annual Review of Anthropology 38: 39-64.

Z Meleo-Erwin. 2011. ‘A Beautiful Show of Strength’: Weight Loss and the fat activist self. Health 15 (2): 188-205.

Aimee Meredith Cox.  2018.  Shapeshifters: Black Girls and the Choreography of Citizenship.  Duke University Press.

E Ellcessor. 2016. Restricted Access: Media, Disability, and the Politics of Participation. New York University Press.

A Marwick. 2013. Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age. Yale University Press.

B Williams. 2018.  The Pursuit of Happiness: Black Women, Diasporic Dreams, and the Politics of Emotional Transnationalism.  Duke University Press.