Maintenance as Care 

This entry was written by The Ediths (Mindy Blaise, Jane Merewether, and Jo Pollitt) and inspired by Tatiana Zakharova’s Ediths Roundtable Series 2021 presentation, ‘Sweet, Sweet Sweaty Play’. It is being reposted from the Common Worlds Collective website.

Tatiana’s use of sketching is integral to her research practice in thinking with the grappling and problematising of ‘play’.  The in-motion of her sketches affectively sensitise us to the tensions implicit in maintenance as the labour of care.  


Tatiana Zakharova’s presentation about playgrounds, and in particular the (neoliberal?) quest for ‘low-maintenance’ playgrounds, reminded us of Maria Puig de la Bellacasa’s ‘tryptic’ of care which takes us beyond the affective to the ethics and work of care. It is the work of care we want to focus on here, and more specifically, the work of maintenance. As Puig de la Bellacasa (2016) points out, simply caring about or caring for something is not enough. Care also involves labour. Often the labour of care is maintenance work which is frequently tedious and unsung. It is often carried out by marginalised women – black, migrant, working class. Yet, without the mundane doings of maintenance, worlds deteriorate and collapse. These often disregarded or overlooked acts of upkeep and repair may be taken for granted or even made invisible, but they are essential for worldly ongoingness.  Maintenance and repair is not only a human concern – ants, birds, whales and microbes all go about everyday care maintenance of, in, and with their worlds. This is not to suggest maintenance care is innocent — far from it. Maintaining corrupt, oppressive, destructive systems is also care work; thus we must always ask, ‘What worlds are being maintained and at the expenses of which others?’ (Puig de la Bellacasa, 2016, p. 44).