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Inequalities of AgingParadoxes of Independence in American Home Care$
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Elana D. Buch

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781479810734

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479810734.001.0001

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Embodying Inequality

Embodying Inequality

Empathy and Hierarchy in Daily Care

(p.126) 4 Embodying Inequality
Inequalities of Aging

Elana D. Buch

NYU Press

This chapter analyzes the embodied care practices at the center of home care work. The chapter argues that these practices generate deep but fragile entanglements between the lives and bodies of older adults and those of their home care workers. These practices involve forms of empathy that blur the boundaries between older adults’ and home care workers’ bodies and their personhoods. I show how home care transforms seemingly straightforward tasks like cooking into moral practices that help older adults feel independent. Home care workers’ bodies become the ground upon which moral hierarchies between persons are built, experienced, and justified on a day-to-day basis. Daily home care practices generate ways of embodying social hierarchies and shape individual subjectivities, thereby making those hierarchies feel morally legitimate.

Keywords:   care, bodies, empathy, moral, personhood, social hierarchies, embodiment, home care work, inequality

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