CFP: Friendship and Caring

From Patricia Lopez:

AAG CFP: Friendship in the Academy: Toward a Politics of Caring With

Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers, New Orleans, LA, April 10-14

Organized by Patricia J. Lopez (Dartmouth College) and Kathryn Gillespie (Wesleyan University)

Geographers have long taken seriously the importance of building intimate relationships within the field (Lloyd et al 2012; Pratt 2012; Swarr and Nagar 2010), “slow scholarship” that takes account of time inherent to building relationships, both in the field and within the academy (Berg and Seeber 2016; Mountz et al 2015), and intimate relationalities as a generative methodology (Donovan and Moss 2017). And these intimate relationships are not limited only to the human realm; indeed, deep relationships of care and friendship manifest between academics and other species involved in their work, although these are radically undertheorized. Following on this work, we aim to unpack friendship in the academy through a politics of “caring with,” with a specific focus on friendship as an undertheorized site of relationality within the academy. We center friendship and its possibilities as a politics of ‘caring with’ in order to “think closely about [our] responsibilities to [our]selves and to others” (Tronto 2013, x). For as Judith Butler (2004, 23) notes, “Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something.”

Even as we center the relational dimensions of friendship in the academy, we acknowledge that it is not always easy to build deep and trusting friendships within the confines of academic relationships – as colleagues, as researchers in the field, as collaborators, etc. Driven in part by the neoliberalization of the university, by the fundamentally individualistic nature of the academy, and by the deep anthropocentrism embedded in these institutions, there are a range of ways that the academy puts enormous strain and pressure on friendships and relationships. This occurs, for example, through: competitiveness between and among colleagues; normative, masculinist expectations around field research and the human and nonhuman relationships that ‘count’ as viable ethnographic data; the devaluation of collaborative work (and the kinds of collaborators who ‘count’); disavowal of the slow scholarship model that is necessary / inherent in building rich relationships in field sites (becoming community members as opposed to studying up on the community); and the expectation of geographic mobility (through moving for jobs, attending conferences, putting strain on home relationships of care for human and nonhuman co-habitants, etc.).

The challenges of building friendships in the academy are not insignificant and we are interested in exploring and honoring those; yet, at the same time, friendships built with humans and other animals bring relational meaning and caring into the work we do as academics. For as Vicky Lawson (2007) reminds us, “We are a caring discipline,” even as Joan Tronto (2013 140) insists that “[t]o care well requires the recognition that care is relational.”

To that end, we ask:

  • How are friendships made and sustained in the academy?
  • How might thinking in multispecies terms about friendship in the academy open new ethical and political questions?
  • How do normative understandings about how our subjectivity as academics (and all of the hyphens that come with this antecedent; e.g., scholar-activist, etc.) fail to acknowledge (or allow for) the richness and possibilities that emerge from deeper relationships in and around the academy?
  • How might a rethinking of these relationships engender a more pointed politics of caring with — not merely in an instrumental way (e.g., allowing ‘deeper access’ to research informants; leading to collaborative work; lending to additional care labor), but rather, as a radical and transformative praxis that, in turn, might build “greater trust for one another, and thus a greater capacity to care for this collective purpose” (Tronto 2013, xii; Lopez and Gillespie 2016)?

We hope to put together both a paper session and a panel. Please submit abstracts for the paper session and/or expressions of interest in the panel session to Patricia Lopez ( and Kathryn Gillespie ( by October 15, 2017.



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