Producing Outstanding Scholarship
Dr. Jocelyn Frelier is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of International Studies of the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University and an Accountability, Climate, Equity, and Scholarship (ACES) Faculty Fellow. Dr. Allegra Midgette is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences of the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University and an ACES Faculty Fellow. We spoke to both Drs. Frelier and Midgette about their care work research and the inspiration for their care work research collaboration.
What is care work and what inspired your care work research?
Dr. Midgette shared that care work is the labor involved in maintaining the needs of members of society, including their physical, psychological, and spiritual needs. Examples of care work include childcare, healthcare, and domestic labor. “After reading Hoschild’s and Machung’s The Second Shift and Evelyn Nakano Glenn’s work, Forced to Care: Coercion and caregiving in America in graduate school I was inspired to think about care within the family and how society constructs social systems and ideologies that perpetuate inequalities in who cares and who is cared for across race, class, and gender,” Midgette said.
Dr. Frelier became interested in care work from a literature and cultural studies background lens. “I wrote my first book on how people impacted by migration rethink their family structures when faced with a cultural crossroads and on how authors use their creative work to envision a more just way of imagining family,” Frelier said. “While care work isn’t the primary subject of inquiry in that study, it is a crucial ingredient in my analysis – in other words, I found it impossible to research how people imagine justice for mothers and new theories of motherhood without bearing in mind the care work those mothers do.”
How did the collaboration form?
Dr. Midgette shared that Dr. Frelier was an amazing mentor as she joined the Texas A&M community. “She is a year ahead of me in the ACES Faculty Fellowship– and she had all these great ideas of how to share our mutual research interests with the larger community,” Midgette said. “It was a great synergy of shared interests and knowledge of opportunities available for creating reading groups and working groups on campus.”
Drs. Frelier and Midgette are both ACES Faculty Fellows at Texas A&M University. A coffee conversation when Dr. Midgette arrived to College Station, led to the discovery of shared research interests. “She has some amazing ongoing projects about how people develop notions of care and about cultural differences in care,” Frelier said. Both decided it would be ideal to collaborate on an interdisciplinary project and identify additional members of the Texas A&M community who were pursuing some of the same research questions. This conversation led to a reading group, which was sponsored by Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research, to read Dr. Evelyn Nakano Glenn’s Forced to Care: Coercion and Caregiving in America.
Why is it important to plan a talk on the care work system?
Dr. Midgette shared, “Often we don’t think about how care work is a system that can contribute to systemic inequalities. In many ways how care is organized undergirds many of the other social systems within society.”
“Understanding how individuals make choices and optimize their lives to the best of their abilities requires that we also look at how structures affect those individuals,” Dr. Frelier said. “At stake in a lot of these conversations is a question about whether or not the society we live in accurately reflects our cultural values; I think a lot of us would answer “no” but it’s an important place to start when contemplating solutions.”
What future work is planned?
Drs. Frelier and Midgette will serve as co-conveners for the Glasscock Humanities Care Studies Working Group in Fall of 2022. As part of the working group speakers will be invited across a variety of disciplines. “Speakers will aid in facilitating dialogue on how care – which is central to the foundation of society – continually perpetuates unequal social relations,” Midgette said. “But care work can also be reimagined to build more caring, inclusive, and equitable spaces for both care-givers and care-receivers.”
Dr. Frelier shared that Dr. Pilar Ponalons-Gons from the University of Pennsylvania was invited to provide a talk to share with the community how care work is an important system to include when thinking about societal inequalities– including intersectional economic inequalities. The talk was held on April 6, 2022, and sponsored by the Office for Diversity. Additionally, Dr. Midgette was recently awarded Glasscock Humanities Working Group funding. Both scholars will work together to continue pursuing interdisciplinary collaborations with members of the care work intellectual community. In September, Drs. Frelier and Midgette will circulate a formal, university-wide call for participation in the working group. Subsequently, they will form writing circles that meet monthly to circulate papers and share feedback, with the ultimate goal of submitting a collection of essays as a special issue to an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed journal.
Crystal S. Carter