COMMENT: This entry aims to introduce the recent book by Hanne Marlene Dahl entitled Struggles in (Elderly) Care: A Feminist View (Palgrave Macmillan 2017). This rich theoretical text provides the basis for several forthcoming entries on “theorizing care”, “theorizing ageing”, and on “gendering and de-gendering”.
Here I wish to emphasize how Struggles in (Elderly) Care [hereafter referred to as Struggles] illustrates what it means to deploy a poststructural research perspective. Throughout the book Dahl’s focus is on complexity and contingency, and on the processural nature of change. She develops a repertoire of concepts to facilitate analysis of this kind, including some that will be familiar to those working with poststructural frameworks, e.g. “assemblage”, “discourses”, “logics”, “governmentality”, among others.
The key term in the book’s title – Struggles – signals Dahl’s poststructural theoretical positioning. She challenges a view that she sees as dominant in research in the area of elderly care, where the focus is on inevitable and fixed contradictory positions (e.g. “dilemmas”; pp. 76-77). By contrast she points to tensions, conflicts and points of change that produce struggles.
Reflecting her poststructural positioning Dahl notes that her analysis targets a specific context – paid elderly care in Denmark from the 1950s to 2015. Her material is drawn from several research projects conducted over the past two decades. Dahl also specifies that her analysis reflects a critical and feminist viewpoint.
Dahl deploys a range of strategies to ensure that she focuses on a level she describes as “micro”, and that she eschews grand narratives (p. 7, 47). For example, in several places she explains the theoretical benefits of using verbs rather than nouns, e.g. neo-liberalizing rather than neo-liberalism, and gendering (p. 29). At the same time she argues for and illustrates the possibility of drawing broader insights about the nature of the place of “care” in the context of a range of social and political processes – “commodifying, professionalizing, late modernizing, de-gendering, globalizing, bureaucratizing and the advent of neo-liberalism” (p. 19).
These broader insights are linked to the notion of “logics”, drawn from Annemarie Mol’s work (A. Mol, The logic of care – Health and the problem of patient choice, Routledge, 2008; see entry on “ontological politics”, 10 December 2017). Logics are described as “different ways of viewing and providing care” (p. 7), and are treated as synonymous with “governmental rationalities” (p. 129). This key term in Foucauldian-informed analysis is discussed in the Research Hub entry, 7 January 2018. In that entry I emphasize the usefulness of problematizations (brought to attention through the WPR questions; Bacchi WPR CHART) as a way to identify rationalities/logics, clearly a key task in this form of analysis.
Dahl highlights the importance of ensuring that we do not miss important struggles, those that may well be less visible or invisible due to a range of “silencing practices” within “discursive regulation”. To bring these struggles into view, Dahl elaborates three analytic techniques: deconstruction, some comparative discourse analysis and memory work (Chapter 4).