Toward an Inclusive Geography of Care and Caregiving

In this short article, we examined the dynamic and changing geographies of care and caregiving. This field of study evolved out of the combination of subdisciplinary developments in medical/health geography, and out of broader concerns for the implications of changes in healthcare policy and practice in Western developed countries. We reviewed the diverse set of theories and concepts that inform geographical approaches to care and caregiving, and we discussed the different institutional, home, community, and body spaces in which and from which care and caregiving occurs.

As with most emerging fields of study, there are several gaps in existing knowledge about care and caregiving. Specifically, most research on care and caregiving has focused on older people, especially women, and urban places in Western developed countries. The experiences of children, youth, and younger adults, male caregivers, and individuals who practice self care are largely absent from the literature. The experiences of individuals living in developing countries, and the unique conditions and requirements of care and caregiving in rural areas are also largely under represented in the care and caregiving literature. These gaps in knowledge, however, have been the focus of several agenda setting developments in care and caregiving research, including the recent publication of special issues in international geography journals that call for more inclusive geographies of care and caregiving. The latter represents, arguably, the most important and potentially fruitful avenue for future research on care and caregiving.

We have shown that changes within healthcare policies and practices affect the places and spaces of care and caregiving, and people’s place specific care experiences. Research on the geographies of care and caregiving is aimed at improving the lives of care recipients and caregivers, and this underpins the growing commitment to developing an ethical and progressive politics of care. In this pursuit, care and caregiving researchers are making rigorous, applied contributions to healthcare policy and practice, are engaging with numerous communities of practice, especially policy decision making structures and processes, and are informing larger debates within medical, health, and human geography.