In ecological thinking, the term care is of shifting valence. In philosophical and literary history, care is inflected as worrisome, burdensome, while, at the same time, uplifting and given to life. It has functional virtue in material practices based on what can be called an empathic relation. In recent critical texts addressing ecological dilemmas, care emerges as a diagram—an intermediate form—between possibility and event. Both palliative and favoring what is possible, care is inflected multifariously and with uncommon force of attraction in the materialist philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari that inspires the work of Jane Bennett, Rosi Braidotti, Brian Massumi, Isabelle Stengers, Mark Hansen, and Jussi Parikka. In each, the care of the possible is based on experimentation and embrace of open-ended practice: collaboration rather than individual profit; posthumanism that recognizes universal entanglements; attention to the role technology plays in all spheres of inquiry; and, increasingly, sensors that produce a surplus of sensibility. This article argues that open-endedness, or possibility, has to be coupled with a palliative care brought to dwindling material resources.
The Care of the Possible
Verena Andermatt Conley is the author of books on ecology and technology (Ecopolitics, 1997; Spatial Ecologies, 2012; Nancy Now, editor, with Irving Goh, 2014) and of creative works (The War against the Beavers, 2003; Cree, 2015). She is currently working on the concept of care and colonial gardens, specifically on the Jardin d’Essais in Algiers. She teaches in the Comparative Literature Department and the Romance Languages and Literatures Department at Harvard University.