Politics of Care in Pandemic Time
North-South Knowledge Sharing on Civil Society Solidarity Networks in London and Kolkata
11 February 2022
‘Politics of Care in Pandemic Time: North-South Knowledge Sharing on Civil Society Solidarity Networks in London and Kolkata’ has been supported by the UCL Global Engagement Funds and the DPU Internal Grant and researches how different actors in societies form social relationships and act to advance development goals and support marginalised and vulnerable groups, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Research Team: Raktim Ray (PI); Amit Chatterjee (CO-I); Rahul Advani, Ufaque Paiker, Koumi Dutta, Dana Sousa-Limbu, Sukanya Chatterjee
Partner: School of Planning and Architecture (Bhopal), India
Funding: UCL Global Engagement Fund and DPU Internal Grant
- Project summary
The pandemic exposed the vulnerability and paradox of infrastructure through its simultaneous presence and absence in cities. In one way, the absence of certain infrastructures failed to support marginalised groups. Simultaneously, new forms of infrastructure evolved during the pandemic through ‘networked mobilisation’ of social capital. Civil society’s participation outside the state’s premise is not new but they reconfigured their participation through solidarity networks.
Thus, this research project a collaborative effort between the Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL and the School of Planning and Architecture Bhopal in India, which aims to investigate how various solidarity networks emerged during the pandemic and how they provided care to vulnerable communities. ‘Politics of Care in Pandemic Time: North-South Knowledge Sharing on Civil Society Solidarity Networks in London and Kolkata’ focuses on these solidarity networks in Kolkata and London and aims to analyse them comparatively.
In Kolkata, the project looks at Quarantined Student-Youth Network (QSYN) who have supplied essential items to vulnerable communities, run an informal learning activity for children and established community kitchens in impoverished areas of Kolkata. Across the UK, Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK developed through volunteering to support shielding and vulnerable communities with grocery shopping, collection of medicine and providing emotional support to name but a few duties.
By comparatively studying these two networks, the project not only investigates new forms of operationalising a “politics of care” but also unsettles our normative understanding of what infrastructure is. This project also critically analyses what kind of infrastructure is required to form and operationalise solidarity networks.
Amongst other project outputs, the research team has produced a podcast series which offers a platform for collaborative discussion on politics of care. The guest speakers come from varied geographies as well as various professional backgrounds, ranging from academia to journalism and activism. Listen to the podcast below.
- Episode 1: ‘Mutual Aid and a Politics of Care with The Care Collective’
In the first episode of the ‘Politics of Care in Pandemic Time’ podcast, Dana Sousa-Limbu from the Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL discusses the development of The Care Collective with Lynne Segal, Andreas Chatzidakis and Jo Littler, three of five members. The episode breaks down what “care” and a “politics of care” is, and how they can be used to fuel mutual aid as an alternative model for providing infrastructures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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- Episode 2: ‘Solidarity Initiatives with the Quarantined Student-Youth Network’
In the second episode of the project’s podcast series, Project Lead Dr Raktim Ray from the Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL speaks with Debojit Thakur from the Quarantined Student-Youth Network (QSYN). QSYN is a crystallisation of various solidarity initiatives by a network of student youth volunteers, beginning in response to the 2015 Nepal Earthquake and Delhi Pogrom of 2020 - just before the COVID-19 lockdown. The episode focuses on how QSYN mobilised resources and what forms of care they provided for vulnerable communities during national-wide lockdown.
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- Episode 3: ‘Learning about a Politics of Care through Community Initiatives During the Pandemic with Dibyayudh Das’
In the third episode, Dana Sousa-Limbu speaks with Dibyaudh Das, a young professional currently working at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting within the Government of India, and former reporter/ producer at Asiaville and TIMES NOW. Dibyaudh reflects on his three-part documentary titled ‘Corona Cyclips: Covering the Migrant Crisis on Bicycles’ which explores how migrants travel on foot, their lost livelihoods and shattered agriculture, and how hyper-local care networks have emerged even in the remotest parts of Uttar Pradesh.
Watch the full documentary of ‘Corona Cyclips: Covering the Migrant Crisis on Bicycles’
- Episode 4: A Politics of Care through Community Initiatives During the Pandemic with Anant Maringanti
Here, Dana Sousa-Limbu is joined by Dr Anant Maringanti, the Director of Hyderabad Urban Lab, a multi-disciplinary research organisation run by the Right to the City Foundation. Together, they discuss community network initiatives in Hyderabad during the COVID-19 pandemic, what care means specifically for Indian communities, and how solidarity networks are important for practicing a politics of care.
- Episode 5: ‘Politics of Care and a Utopian Future with Dean Spade’
Dean Spade is Associate Professor at Seattle University School of Law and has been working to build queer and trans liberation based in racial and economic justice for the past two decades. In today’s episode, Dean sheds light on how to build solidarity during this crisis (and the next).
Read ‘Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During this Crisis (and the Next)’ by Dean Spade (https://www.versobooks.com/books/3713-mutual-aid) and engage with the Big Door Brigade (http://www.deanspade.net/projects/big-door-brigade/).
- Episode 6: ‘Politics of Care and a Utopian Future with Rhiannon Firth’
In the final episode of the ‘Politics of Care in Pandemic Time’ podcast series, Dana Sousa-Limbu speaks with Rhiannon Firth, Lecturer in Sociology of Education at IOE, UCL, author of ‘Utopian Politics: Citizenship and Practice’ and co-author of the book ‘Coranavirus, Class and Mutual Aid in the United Kingdom’. The research team delves deeper into Rhiannon’s expertise on grassroots utopias, social movements and pedagogy to conceptualise a utopian future after the pandemic.
Read more of Rhiannon’s work on mutual aid and utopia with ‘Utopian Politics: Citizenship and Practice’ (https://www.routledge.com/Utopian-Politics-Citizenship-and-Practice/Firth/p/book/9780415669016) and ‘Coronavirus, Class and Mutual Aid in the United Kingdom’ by John Preston & Rhiannon Firth (https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-030-57714-8)
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Presentation from Project Lead Raktim Ray
Main image: Community Kitchen
Source: Quarantined Student-Youth Network