Troubling False Care

Towards a More Revolutionary ‘Care Revolution’ in the University


  • Ann E Bartos Department of Geography, The Pennsylvania State University


Care, academy, false hope, false care, university


Despite sustained scholarly attention on care ethics across the social sciences, little attention has been paid to the politics of care practiced in the Western academy. In this provocation, I bring care ethics into dialogue with critical pedagogy to explore seemingly benign caring practices in the university. I draw on analyses of ‘false hope’ to provide a framework to better identify and nuance examples of ‘care’ throughout universities. While some caring practices in the academy may provide opportunities for resistance to its neoliberal corporatisation, I argue that examples of ‘false care’ and even uncaring practices can simultaneously flourish. More attention is needed by care scholars to unpack and untangle fraught caring relations throughout the academy in order to help our universities become more caring, equitable and inclusive.


Askins, Kye and Matej Blazek. 2017. “Feeling our way: Academia, emotions and a politics of care.” Social and Cultural Geography, 18(8), 1086-1105.

Ayyala, Manasa S., Kimberly Skarupski, Joann N. Bodurtha, Marlís González-Fernández, Lisa E. Ishii, Barbara Fivush and Rachel B. Levine. 2019. “Mentorship Is Not Enough: Exploring Sponsorship and Its Role in Career Advancement in Academic Medicine.” Academic Medicine, 94(1), 94-100.

Bartos, Ann E. 2020. “Relational spaces and relational care: Campus sexual violence, intimate geopolitics and topological polis.” Area, 52(2), 261-268.

Berlant, Lauren. 2011. Cruel Optimism. Durham: Duke University Press.

Caretta, Martina A. and Caroline V. Faria. 2019. “Time and Care in the ‘Lab’ and the ‘Field’: Slow Mentoring and Feminist Research in Geography.” Geographical Review. DOI: 10.1111/gere.12369

Corbera, Esteve, Isabelle Anguelovski, Jordi Honey-Rosés, Isabel Ruiz-Mallén. 2020. “Academia in the time of COVID-19: Towards and ethics of care.” Planning Theory and Practice, 21(2). 191-199.

de Vries, Jennifer and Jennifer Binns. 2018. Sponsorship: Creating Career Opportunities for Women in Higher Education.Universities Australia Executive Women (UAEW), Canberra, Australia:

Dombroski, Kelly, Alison F. Watkins, Helen Fitt, Jillian Frater, Karen Banwell, Kierin Mackenzie, Mutambo et al. 2018. “Journeying from “I” to “we”: assembling hybrid caring collectives of geography doctoral scholars.” Journal of Geography in Higher Education 42 (1), 80-93.

Duncan-Andrade, Jeffrey M. R. 2009. “Note to Educators: Hope Required When Growing Roses in Concrete.” Harvard Educational Review, 79(2), 181-194.

Falconer Al-Hindi, Karen. 2019. “Vibrant mentoring landscapes in feminist geography.” Gender, Place & Culture, 26(12), 1657-1663.

Fisher, Bernice and Joan Tronto. 1990. Toward a feminist theory of caring. In Circles of Care: Work and Identity in Women’s Lives, edited by E. K. Abel and M. K. Nelson, 35–62. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Flaherty, Colleen. 2020. “Burning Out.” Inside Higher Ed. September 14. Accessed at:

Freire, Paulo. 1999. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.

Gilligan, Carol J. 1982. In a Different Voice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Giroux, Henry A. 2011. On Critical Pedagogy. New York: Bloomsbury

Green, Maia and Victoria Lawson. 2011. “Recentring care: interrogating the commodification.” Cultural Geography, 12(6), 639-654.

hooks, bell. 2003. Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope. New York: Rutledge.

Kaufman-Osborn, Timothy, Nancy J. Hirschmann, Daniel Engster, Fiona Robinson, Nicola Yeates and Joan C. Tronto. 2018. “Symposium Review: 25th Anniversary of Moral Boundaries by Joan Tronto.” Politics & Gender, 14 (e18), 1–28.

Lawson, Victoria. 2007. “Geographies of care and responsibility.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 97(1), 1–11.

Llewellyn, Kristina R. and Jennifer J. Llewellyn. 2015. A restorative approach to learning: relational theory as feminist pedagogy in universities. In Feminist Pedagogy in Higher Education, edited by T. P. Light, J. Nicholas and R. Bondy, 11-32. Waterloo, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Lopez, Patricia J. and Kathryn Gillespie. 2016. “A love story: for ‘Buddy System’ research in the academy.” Gender, Place & Culture, 23(12), 1689-1700.

Milligan, Christine and Janine Wiles. 2010. “Landscapes of care.” Progress in Human Geography. 34(6): 736-754.

Mountz, Alison, Anne Bonds, Becky Mansfield, Jenna Loyd, Jennifer Hyndman, Margaret Walton-Roberts, Basu et al. 2015. “For Slow Scholarship: A Feminist Politics of Resistance through Collective Action in the Neoliberal University.” Acme, 14 (4), 1235–1259.

Mullings, Beverly and Sanjukta Mukherjee. 2018. “Reflections on Mentoring as Decolonial, Transnational, Feminist Praxis.” Gender, Place and Culture 25(10): 1405-1422.

Narayan, Uma. 1995. “Colonialism and Its Others: Considerations on Rights and Care Discourses.” Hypatia, 10(2), 133–140.

Noddings, Nel. 2015. Care ethics and ‘caring’ organizations. In Care Ethics & Political Theory, edited by D. Engster and M. Hamington, 72-86. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Oberhauser, Anne M. and Martina A. Caretta. 2019. “Mentoring early career women geographers in the neoliberal academy: dialogue, reflexivity, and ethics of care.” Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, 101(1), 56-67.

Peake, Linda and Beverley Mullings. 2016. “Critical Reflections on Mental and Emotional Distress in the Academy.” ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies. 15(2), 253-84.

Popke, John. 2006. “Geography and ethics: everyday mediations through care and consumption.” Progress in Human Geography 30, 504-12.

Power, Emma and Charles Gillon. 2019. “How housing tenure drives household care strategies and practices.” Social and Cultural Geography, DOI: 10.1080/14649365.2019.1667017.

Raghuram, Parvati. 2016. Locating care ethics beyond the global north. Acme, 15(3), 511–533.

Raghuram, Parvati, Clair Madge and Patricia Noxolo.  2009. “Rethinking Responsibility and Care for a Postcolonial World.” Geoforum, 40(1), 5-13.

Robinson, Fiona. 2011. The Ethics of Care: A Feminist Approach to Human Security. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Ruddick, Sara. 1989. Maternal Thinking: Towards a Politics of Peace. Boston: Beacon Press.

The Roestone Collective. 2014. “Safe Space: Towards a Reconceptualization.” Antipode, 46(5): 1346-1365.

Tronto, Joan C. 1993. Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care. New York and London: Routledge.

Tronto, Joan C. 2013. Caring Democracy: Markets, Equality and Justice. New York: New York University Press.

Webster, Natasha and Meighan Boyd. 2019. “Exploring the importance of inter-departmental women’s friendship in geography as resistance in the neoliberal academy.” Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography. 101(1), 44-55.

West, Cornell. 2001. “Progressive politics in these times.” Mario Savio Annual Lecture Series. Berkeley, CA, November.




How to Cite

Bartos, A. E. (2021). Troubling False Care: Towards a More Revolutionary ‘Care Revolution’ in the University. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 20(3), 312–321. Retrieved from