Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2018

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



How do people make sense of “care” when it fails? My dissertation examines the ethical debates that are provoked by the limitations of care in the setting of home-based care and associated safety net programs in Botswana. The organization of care is negotiated across domestic and public domains, often incorporating concerns about kinship ties, dependency, and labor in the welfare state. Based on 16 months of ethnographic research, I demonstrate that the ethical evaluation of care varies between differently-positioned stakeholders engaged in providing chronic care. Economic conditions and socio-political ideologies shape the ethics of care by way of setting the circumstances in which it may be achieved, and providing rationales to explain when it cannot. In Botswana’s welfare apparatus, caregiving practice as central to the claims for resources made by caregivers from both kin and government sources. Yet the strategies used by caregivers to secure resources for care and survival are not well recognized by government policy, which employs outdated logics of productive labor and authorized dependency. The concept of “conflictual ethics” provides an analytical tool to examine the conflicts around legitimate dependency that shape the problem of care within a setting of economic precarity. My analysis of the competing ethical frames at play provides important insight for scholarship addressing the relation of care to the ethics of justice, economic inequality, and governance within everyday life.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Rebecca Lester

Committee Members

Peter Benson, Rachel Brown, Carolyn Lesorogol, Shanti Parikh,


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