CfP: Compassion and care: emotions and experience in the care of children through history

The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, Deansgate, Manchester, UK. 23-24 March 2023

Deadline: submissions should be emailed to Kate Gibson (University of Manchester) and Claudia Soares (Newcastle University) at by 30 October 2022.

The care system in the UK is under increasing pressure: systematic budget cuts, prolonged austerity, and sustained issues with staff recruitment, retention and burnout have all contributed to the crumbling of the nation’s care agencies. Independent care reviews across the UK have highlighted the need to reform and ‘reset’ the system of children’s social care, so that lifelong loving, supportive and nurturing relationships are placed at its heart. These reviews have occurred in the midst of growing demand for accountability and transparency in care processes and defence of the rights of Care Experienced people to access their records and know their history. Moreover, across the globe, carers and care work – usually designated female – have been underpaid, exploited, and devalued. Feminist scholarship on the ethics of care has long debated the invisibility and devaluing of care. But recent events such as the Covid-19 pandemic have highlighted just how central childcare systems are to the everyday functioning of society, requiring us to rethink the value of care work once again. Contemporary systems for children’s care developed out of centuries of informal, familial, community, charitable and state-led practices. This long history has not yet received full scholarly attention, and it is both timely and relevant to focus on the diversity of care relationships and experiences in the past and present. Ideas and experiences of care in the past have implications for how we might envision a caring society and an ethics of care in the future. The vibrancy of scholarship in the history of emotions, the history of childhood and the recent return to the concept of ‘experience’ provide new opportunities to reconsider histories of care.

This conference invites scholars and practitioners across disciplines, chronologies, and geographies to consider different forms and experiences of children’s care. What caring means and entails is historically and culturally specific, and this conference aims to unpick how care has been perceived and experienced from the perspective of carers and care recipients at different moments in time and across varied locations. The conference seeks to privilege the consideration of emotion and experience within care relationships, and the affective dimensions associated with care practices. We anticipate that the conference will appeal to scholars at all levels (inc. postgraduates and ECRs) working across disciplines, in the humanities, social sciences and beyond. We encourage diversity in methodological approaches, geographical scope, temporal period, and religious/spiritual backgrounds. We would particularly like to hear from Care Experienced people and current practitioners across children’s social care and policy, in seeking to make connections between care past and present.

Proposals for 20-minute papers or panels of three speakers are welcome. Topics might include:
  • Histories of familial or kinship care
  • Histories of care agencies, institutions, state and voluntary forms of care, humanitarian/relief work
  • Violence and abuse in ‘care’
  • Global perspectives, including care and migration
  • Caregiving as work: the unpaid/paid labour of care
  • Caring and the life cycle, including young carers or sibling carers
  • Emotions and motivations of care, including religion, charity, kindness, compassion, love, obligation or negligence in care relationships
  • Care recipient voices and experiences, including the experiences and agency of children and the impact of care into adulthood
  • Care giver perspectives, including the emotional costs and labour of caring
  • Care and disability, including physical and mental (ill) health
  • Care and gender
  • Care and race
  • Care environments and settings: landscapes and sensory aspects of care
  • The ethics and philosophies of care through time
  • The methodology, ethics, and emotions of care research
  • Care research and its impact on policy

For individual paper proposals, please submit a title, 200-word abstract, and contact details. For panel proposals of three papers, please submit a title, 200-word abstract for each paper, and contact details for one speaker. The conference will be a hybrid format (in person and online) and will be free. Bursaries will be available to cover travel, accommodation, and childcare costs
Contact Info:

For further information or questions, plese get in contact with Dr Kate Gibson, University of Manchester, and Dr Claudia Soares, Newcastle University by email: