Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
The idea of ‘self care’ raises questions: caring of what or whom, by what means, and to what end? While recently linked to medical concepts of mental and physical well-being, ‘self care’ also invokes associations with ostentations displays of wealth or privilege, and/or a tendency toward political isolation and self-centeredness within the context of an individually-oriented neoliberal capitalism. Some scholars and activists have sought to re-appropriate the concept of caring for the self by considering self care as intricately tied with care of others both in the sense that caring for others requires a cared-for self, and because in the process of caring for self, people often care for others. It becomes politicized in calls to address inequities in both paid and unpaid care, to develop social and physical infrastructure that supports care activities, and to transform our very ideas about what the ‘good life’ is and how social institutions can support that. This paper explores some of the ways in which self and other care are inseparable from one another. It focuses on the Global North and the ways that New Age tourism, especially youth, becomes a means for developing an ethic of self and other care through personal transformation. The paper also examines cases within the United States to explore the ways that ethics of care, interlaced with values of what makes life worth living, play out within a local context.