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Race, gender and the impossibilities of care
  1. Leslie Swartz
  1. Correspondence to Professor Leslie Swartz, Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, Matieland 7602, South Africa; lswartz{at}


Informal care work is indispensible to healthcare but is often invisible. Using my own experience with carers who looked after my dying mother, I explore the submerged racial and gender politics of care work, issues which have a particular relevance in South Africa. I raise the question of whether it is possible for powerful professionals like myself to engage with care workers in ways which do not reproduce patterns of exclusion and exploitation. Telling of and thinking about ‘private’ stories which are intimate and visceral experiences may help us to think more clearly and more visibly about the politics of care work.

  • Palliative care
  • gender
  • race
  • narrative medicine
  • South Africa
  • ethics of care
  • cancer care
  • care of the elderly
  • palliative care
  • gender studies

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  • Funding This study was funded by the National Research Foundation.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement There are no data presented in this article apart from my own observations.