Violence as Care, Because Violence Calls for Care

Over the course of this semester, the exploration of  “violence as the performance of waste” (Joseph Roach) has become the backbone of most of my thinking throughout the course. Though now, having to consider this violence as care, I have found myself also relying on former Geneseo student, Davina Ward’s paper, where she proposes that violence can take on the form of care and vice versa. In her essay, Ward pushes back against Saidiya Hartman’s assertion “care is the antidote for violence”, where she argues that both violence and care “each serve as a justification for an action”. Thinking back to the course concepts revealed at the beginning of the semester, sacrifice, effigy, and expenditure will be involved heavily in my analysis here. Really early in the semester, an example was presented to the class of a picture of a bounce house called the “Tot-Tanic” an inflatable rental for kids parties. An effigy at its core, somehow its performance of violence –violent in the way it is discrediting the tragic deaths of the incident, or rather,  forgetting the severity of that event.– a community was brought together by an effigy, and its violent performance. So the morality of it all comes into question here; can a violent performance be considered an act of care if the end result brings people together? 

Looking to Superstorm, by Kathryn Miles, the audience is brought into Hurricane Sandy, the surreal depictions and tragic details of the storm’s impact, grant the reader a perspective to understand the violence of the storm. Focusing on the afterward, the audience is enlightened on the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, with survivors struggling without power, Miles describes the torment these individuals had to face. She writes, “For many, the torment continued. Across Appalachia, residents struggled against freezing temperatures and no power. They risked asphyxiation by using camping stoves and gas ovens to keep warm. Nursing home workers swaddled elderly patients in blankets and sleeping bags. The snow continued to fall.” (Miles, 254). This quote depicts the violent circumstances these people had to endure. Continuing along in the afterward, Miles writes about Bellevue Hospital, where the patients had to stay in unsanitary conditions with limited food supply. One thing to take away from this part of the afterword is the way Dr. Ford took the initiative in bringing everyone together during that time of hopelessness. Miles writes, “The situation was now a crisis. She approached the corrections officers there. “I want to bring together all of the patients,” she said. “I think it’s the only way.” They agreed. Her staff began walking patients one by one. It was dark. The only lights they had were the flashlights they had brought on Sundaayy. Once they were all assembled, Ford called for her staff, too. She waited for them to settle in. And then she began to speak. She told them just what they were up against. She promised to take care of them. “We’re all in this together,” she said.” (Miles, 245). This quote shows how the circumstances brought people together to care for one another. What is demonstrated here reflects the concept of violence acting as care, or more in-depth, a violent state invoking care. 

After evaluating the correlation between violence and care, my final question pushes through: Does an act of violence initiate care? When considering examples of this, I think back to when I would get hurt and would need to be cared for in order to get better. After an injury is obtained from a violent act (purposeful or accidental) care is required to maintain stability and heal the injury. This draws on scholar Saidiya Hartman’s assertion that care is the antidote to violence. When care is necessary, it typically seems to follow a violent circumstance. From the video on Vimeo, In the Wake: A Salon in Honor of Christina Sharpe, Saidiya Hartman reads and provides a brief statement about Sharpe’s work before introducing her to speak. Hartman gives more on the “antidote to violence” concept during the time she speaks, bringing up the encountering of black suffering and stating “When looking at images of blacks suffering, I keep looking because that cannot be all there was to see or to say. I had to take care. Care is the antidote to violence.” (Timestamp: 8:29). This presents the idea that violence can lead to the action of care, although care is not always the guaranteed end result of violence. Care can also be a way to resist or combat violence, but it may not “erase” the violence before it, the memory still exists.

It is important to evaluate this correlation between violence and care, and not fully understanding that correlation is completely okay as well because it is a complex moral concept. Violence as care, because violence calls for care, is just one way to see that connection. It is worth examining how violence, despite not always appearing as care, can bring people together or spark the need for care. Through the examination of several course materials, I have learned how to grasp a better understanding of how violence and care interact with each other in many different settings.

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