warm and cold

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Some thoughts on Annemarie Mol, Ingunn Moser and Jeannette Pols Care in Practice.

In the edited book Care in Practice: On Tinkering in Clinics, Homes, and Farms, Annemarie  Mol sustains that we tend to identify two sides in the practice of care. One of them, the “human factor” is usually understood to be “warm”. The other side, the technical, the one involving the use of artefacts, is characterized as “cold”.

Annemarie Mol rejects this distinction. She says that care is not a matter of “temperature”, but of “tinkering”. I agree with Professor Mol, but I think the metaphor could be useful. We can work with the idea of “cold” and “warm” to explain how all the work of “tinkering” changes our relationships with people and things, and how our own identity change as a result of the process.

This way, some of our (a priori “warm”) human relationships become “cold”, a “routine”, as a result of the process of care. We don’t pay attention to the person, only to the mechanical movements imposed by the task. This is something natural. Some of the practices of care are “disgusting”, and we need to protect ourselves in order to maintain our dignity, and the dignity of the person we are taking care of. And vice versa, some of the objects we use in our practices of care became “warm” when, as a result of our interaction with them, they are modified in order to increase the patient’s comfort (for example).

The borders between thing and human, between cold and warm, are porous. We must think in term of relationships and bridges, instead of frontiers.

Picture: Wild Matters, Victoria Diehl.

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