Ecologies of care (Journal of Visual Culture & HaFI, 34)

This is the thirty-fourth instalment of a collaborative effort by the Journal of Visual Culture and the Harun Farocki Institut, initiated by the COVID-19 crisis. The call sent to JVC’s editorial board, and a wide selection of previous contributors and members of its extended communities, described the task as follows: “There is a lot of spontaneous, ad hoc opinion-making and premature commentary around, as to be expected. However, the ethics and politics of artistic and theoretical practice to be pursued in this situation should oblige us to stay cautious and to intervene with care in the discussion. As one of JVC’s editors, Brooke Belisle, explains: ‘We are not looking for sensationalism, but rather, moments of reflection that: make connections between what’s happening now and the larger intellectual contexts that our readership shares; offer small ways to be reflective and to draw on tools we have and things we know instead of just feeling numb and overwhelmed; help serve as intellectual community for one another while we are isolated; support the work of being thoughtful and trying to find/make meaning…which is always a collective endeavour, even if we are forced to be apart.'” TH


Photo: Petero Kalule


Ecologies of care[1]

Hello, my name is Janine Francois. I would like to say thank you to the organisers of #stophatrednow2020 for putting together the event and for inviting me to contribute. I know we will be discussing pressing and emergent topics presented by an amazing and eclectic mix of womxn, femmes and people of various gender identities and non-genders. These contributors will be sharing with us their knowledge(s), expertise, practices and thoughts that question the intersections between creativity, climate justice, and ecology.


I have aptly named my talk ‘ecologies of care’, a term rooted in how we think about our relationship to our physical and material world but also the metaphysics of care. How do we see each other’s bodies, identities, histories and knowledge(s) as constellations of lived experiences intersecting across the globe that are both unique and individual but also underpinned by the traumas of colonialism and resistance and uprising? In various ways we are all concerned with our positionalities in these dire times, we also know that our histories and positionalities provide the privileged amongst us with more access to resources. So what does it mean to create or curate ‘ecologies of care’? How do we care for each other as people with bodies that are loved but also marked with pain and trauma? And how do we care for our existences and knowledge(s)?


I am speaking from my heart, it is an unscripted speech, so please bear with my thought processes, lapses and utterances. The issue of climate injustice is an injustice to Black, Brown and Indigenous people, who are disproportionately affected by climate change caused by 500 years of white-western-imperialism. We can think about climate change as a very contemporary phenomenon or we can locate it via colonialism. We can then locate the same relationship to Covid-19, in how bodies of Colour in the Global South and North are disproportionately affected by a disease due to discriminatory systemic practices These two issues are not separate, they are connected in how Black, Brown and Indigenous bodies marked by gender, class and sexuality and other indicators of underprivilege are affected by our lack of access to resources and care. Covid-19 is a climate issue. I come back to the question of how do we create ‘ecologies of care’. How do we work against structures, systems, institutions, policies, laws and practices that affect so many of us who are oppressed and marginalised? How do we create our own systems of care founded on resistance and futurity, that operate beyond the limitations of capitalism? How do we gain access to our world? How do we gain access to safe growing food? And even in the so-called Global North, Black people in Detroit still do not even have access to safe drinking water, a supposed basic human right. Environmental racism is a climate issue.


‘Ecologies of care’ is not only a framework for us to work or think beyond the scope of white supremacy (many of us are already doing this); but to think about ourselves as constellations, that intersect across different continents and timezones, different histories and lived experiences and that we are all rooted in particular practices of care; which not only concerns our own bodies or lives, but also the care of others and the various beings and entities we interact with from animals to water to plants to the spiritual. We are all united in how we have been traumatised by white supremacist-colonial-capitalist violence, and working towards ‘ecologies of care’ in light of these traumas is not only a dismantling of these systems (decolonising?); it is also generating a new praxis that reminds us that our bodies are sites of knowledge(s) and that they require love, care and intimacy. In these bodies we are growing on a daily basis new ways of existing, acting and demanding, and in doing so we conjure a new magic that changes how we talk and respond to one another and how we want to be held (or not) and how this all culminates in a radical love ethic to quote aunty bell hooks. bell hooks urges us to create a radical love ethic that is inherently anti patriarchal, white supremacist and capitalist, departing from the conditions of scarcity and embracing conditions of abundance. A radical love ethic knows there is always enough resources to be redistributed, even though oppressive systems might tell us otherwise… there is always enough! There is an abundance of resources that can be equitably shared with the most marginalised and oppressed amongst us. The psychology of finite resources can only exist under the conditions of oppression, so let’s burn down the master’s house and its tools.


I want you to care for me, I want you to hold me, I want you to love me and I want you to see me in all of my visibilities and invisibilities. I want you to acknowledge my histories, I want you to acknowledge my pain, I want you to acknowledge how my body moves in the world, I want you to acknowledge how my body is unseen in the world. ‘Ecologies of care’ is thinking about these provocations from a self /individual level to a we, us and collective level. ‘Ecologies of care’ is working against the transnational, nation states and artificial borders, and against any framework which upholds nationalism or citizenry upholds white supremacy and scarcity.


I am now ending with a provocation of how we enact an ‘ecologies of care’ that is anti-human. ‘Ecologies of care’ dismantles the notion of the ‘human’ whose ideologies is rooted in white supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy (aka the enlightenment) and maintains hierarchies of humanness attributed to whiteness, maleness, straightness, cisness, able bodies, westernness, citizened, thinness and the monied. Working towards ‘ecologies of care’ is embracing the contradictions of the non-language, the intangible, the entangled, the messy, the unruly, the unarticulated, and the ‘ugly’, and embracing processes that are experiential, unevidenced and spiritual. I would like to offer these thoughts to #stophatrednow2020 as the starting point by which we practice ‘ecologies of care’ in real life, digitally, and personally.


[1] This text is an adaptation of my talk, ‘ecologies of care’ given at the #StopHatredNow online festival organised by Urban Apa, on May 14 2020.
NB: I would like to acknowledge that the phrase ‘ecology of care’ is also an arts based initiative founded by Ria Hartley focusing on supporting disabled and non-neurotypical artists with access needs. I wrote and titled this speech before my discovery.


Janine Francois is a Black-Feminist Cultural Producer and Lecturer at University of the Arts London. Her practices centre women/femmes of colour by establishing ‘safe(r)’ spaces sites of resistance, disruption and co-production. Janine is a Collaborative Partnership Doctoral student researching, ‘if Tate can be a ‘safe(r) space to discuss race and cultural difference within a teaching and learning context’ at Tate and University of Bedfordshire. She is interested in (re)production of dominance, ethics of care, and the cultural politics of emotions, as Sara Ahmed calls it in her book of the same name (Edinburgh University Press, 2014). In 2020, Francois was named one of the UK’s top 100 BAME Climate Change activists by Climate Reframe. You can follow her thoughts via twitter: @itsjaninebtw or her blog:


July 7th, 2020 — Rosa Mercedes / 02

The Reconstruction of Ukraine. Ruination / Representation / Solidarity, online symposium, September 9-11, 2022. “The Reconstruction of Ukraine: Ruination / Representation / Solidarity” devotes particular attention to cities, architecture, art, culture and psychological trauma – but the scope of the conversations it aims to start is broader. In due course, the discussions held during the symposium may coalesce into myriad projects, initiatives and experiments undertaken by government institutions, municipalities, educational and cultural bodies and other more interstitial actors. The ambition of this symposium is to establish a platform for dialogue, facilitating communication, collaboration and constructive argument between diverse actors and initiatives.

George Edwards (Zetkin Collective) on war, nationalism and the “anti-climate lobby” (via Arts of the Working Class): “The latest prognosis of this particular war was spelt out in a flurry of reports from the IPCC; the most recent, described as ‘an atlas of human suffering’ by the chief of the UN, demanded ‘rapid, deep and immediate’ emissions cuts in all sectors to ensure an inhabitable planet for all. In step with the science, many wish this conflict to mark the beginning of an intensified programme of decarbonization, ridding economies of not only Russian, but all fossil fuels, wherever their geological source. But whilst political leaders scramble abroad to secure new sources of fossil fuels – sweet-talking sheiks and summoning LNG terminals from the ground – a resourceful and committed cohort, let’s call them the anti-climate lobby, refuse to accept this diagnosis. The partakers in the fossil industry have seized upon this crisis, sensing it as an opportunity to enlarge and entrench economic interests rooted in fossil fuels. As the course of action prescribed by the IPCC imperils this line of business, the attempts to secure fresh investments in fossil fuel infrastructures, to lock-in production and secure profits for the coming decades may feel all the more pressing. The solutions they pose also fit within the national frame and it is with nationalist political forces that they find their most ardent allies.”

July 31st, 2022

The fundamental difference that we face in Europe at the moment between the Western approach characterized by the pursuit of peace and the Eastern one focused on liberation and independence poses a dramatic challenge – in order to survive and progress, democracy as a political regime has to be capable of defending itself also in a military way.” Armed Democracy revolves around the concepts of imperialism, liberation, fascism, autocracy, revolution, and militarization in pursuit of the world to come on Europe’s burnt out land. Conceived by the Kyiv Biennial and Biennale Warszawa from the East Europe Biennial Alliance, this special public program, curated by Vasyl Cherepanyn within the 2nd edition of Biennale Warszawa, the program is a first part of the series organized by the East Europe Biennial Alliance discussing Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine and taking place in Warsaw, Prague, Kassel, and Riga over the summer and fall of 2022.

Olena Lyubchenko on Whiteness, Expropriation, War, and Social Reproduction in Ukraine (via LeftEast): “[…] when we hear on the news that ‘Ukraine is fighting a European war’ and ‘Ukraine is defending Europe’, amid images of fleeing ‘poor white’ women with children prioritized over racialized ‘Others’, ‘Ukraine’ is being made ‘white’ in the global imaginary. That is, “the injunction to ‘return to Europe’ by way of Europeanization is enabled and conditioned on the mythologies of Western civilization, and that Europeanization at once marks (promulgates) and unmarks (naturalizes) racial whiteness” [Nadezhda Husakouskaya and Randi Gressgård]. The paradox is that Europe’s existence as such has only been possible precisely because of the exploitation of global working peoples through expropriation of resources and today neoliberal economic reforms and reproduced by feminized labour.”

Vasyl Cherepanyn about the “inertness, hiding behind the European Wall” (via L’Internationale): “Many Western institutions that have been claiming ‘radical political engagement’ for years, have simply resorted to a white cube radicalism and self-satisfying humanitarianism, too afraid of acting politically beyond their comfort zone and unsettling their publics and authorities by attempting to affect the decision-making process regarding the Ukrainian cause.”

May 28th, 2022

Tatsiana Shchurko on the War in Ukraine, Entangled Imperialisms, and Transnational Feminist Solidarity, via LeftEast (May 2, 2022): “[An] uneven knowledge production and the many implications of the war against Ukraine reveal the dire need to develop a feminist anti-capitalist critique of multiple imperialisms. This language should grow from within the occupied and suppressed communities of Eastern Europe and Eurasia. An anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist feminist positionality grasps that the local is part of a global in an effort to build transnational connections of mutual aid and support against state and corporate violence. For example, statements of solidarity with Ukraine expressed by the International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia and Native American communities along with the anti-war feminist march in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) on March 8, 2022, pointing out that the war in Ukraine should be of concern for a broad transnational community, may serve as instrumental examples of alternative anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist solidarities that stretch beyond state regulations and macro-politics and foreground decolonial perspectives, necessary in addressing entanglements of multiple imperialisms. Such solidarities also bring to light hidden interconnections of the past that allowed for distant communities to survive and support each other against the violence of imperialist intervention and its attendant capitalist exploitation. Thus, the march in Bishkek reminds of the socialist roots of the International Women’s Day to call for internationalist, intersectional, class solidarity against imperialism and militarism.”

Vasyl Cherepanyn on that “It’ll take more than tanks to ease Germany’s guilt” (via Politico): “Since the Soviet Union’s collapse, Germany has been imposing neocolonial optics on its Eastern European ‘peripheries,’ and on the post-Soviet space in particular, where Ukraine was long considered a gray buffer zone about which the EU was ‘deeply concerned.’ Germany didn’t bother itself much with differentiating between former Soviet countries’ pasts. Even until recently, any Ukrainian agenda in Germany was often ‘balanced’ with a Russian perspective, so as to not exclude the latter by any means.”

An unnamed anarchist and art scholar, who joined the Territorial Defense Forces, quoted by Olexii Kuchanskyi in an essay on “Digital Leviathan and His Nuclear Tail” (via Your Art and e-flux notes): “At dawn, Dima and I talked about cinema. Dima believes that cinema is inferior to literature as a means of expression because you spend much more time with a book than a film. It’s a really interesting point, something to dig into. I studied at the department of art theory & history and I never thought of it. Dima served in the military after school and worked at the factory all his life. He listens to rap, smokes pot, and tries to have fun. He is thirty-eight, his child was born last year. He likes Wong Kar-wai and is a fan of Asian cinema in general. Dima communicates by quoting Omar Khayyam, Confucius, and other awesome guys.”

April 20th, 2022
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