For radical twentieth-century feminists, it was a rallying cry for bodily autonomy and political power. For influencers and lifestyle brands, it's buying fancy nutrition and body products at a premium. And it has now infiltrated nearly every food, leisure, and pop-culture space as a multi-billion-dollar industry. What is it? To quote a million memes: it's called self-care.
In Decolonize Self-Care Alyson K. Spurgas and Zoë C. Meleo-Erwin deliver a comprehensive sociological analysis and scathing critique of the catchphrase's capitalist, racist undertones. To decolonize self-care, they argue, requires a full reckoning with the exclusionary, appropriative nature of most of the wellness industry, but this education is only the first step in the process. We must commit to new models of care and well-being that allow for health, pleasure, and community--for everyone.
"It often feels like there is nothing new to say about the contradictory politics of self-care. Behold Decolonize Self-Care. It brings a new diagnosis and critique to the crowded intersection of the self-care hot takes while making recommendations on both the theoretical and structural level. It is replete with insight on what perspective and practice is needed to survive the capitalist and racist day. It is smart, urgent, and often laugh out loud funny." — Sarah Sharma, Associate Professor and Director of the ICCIT at the University of Toronto and author of In the Meantime: Temporality and Cultural Politics
"Decolonize Self-Care not only details how far self care has traveled from its starting point as a Black feminist survival tactic, but how deeply and pervasively it has been transformed into highly monetized and self-serving logics. Throughout this hard-hitting book, they unfurl all the ways the poison of #SelfCare has been threaded into a wide array of seemingly disparate markets and movements. When Spurgas and Meleo-Erwin apply their incisive critique across the products and services we often consume as feel-good and healthy, their facades crumble, revealing much darker and more dangerous motives and outcomes. But they also provide a salve, urging readers to take on the task of more deference and less defensiveness, more collective action and less credit-card driven indulgence, that is, their prescription is more care, less self." — Laura Mauldin, Associate Professor of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, University of Connecticut
About the Contributors:
Alyson K. Spurgas is Associate Professor of Sociology and affiliated faculty in the Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Spurgas researches, writes, and teaches about the sociology of trauma, the politics of desire, and technologies of care from an interdisciplinary and intersectional feminist perspective. They are also the author of Diagnosing Desire: Biopolitics and Femininity into the Twenty-First Century, which won the 2021 Cultural Studies Association First Book Prize. Alyson lives in Brooklyn, New York, with their amazing partner and cat.
Zoë C. Meleo-Erwin is a qualitative sociologist and former assistant professor of public health. In 2022, she left academia to pursue a career as a user experience researcher in the tech industry. As a scholar, her work focused on the meanings of health and illness, health decision-making, experiences of embodiment, and the ways in which digital technologies facilitate the creation of both identity and community around health and illness.
Bhakti Shringarpure is a writer, academic and founding editor of Warscapes magazine. She is the author of Cold War Assemblages: Decolonization to Digital and a regular contributor to The Los Angeles Review of Books and Africa is a Country. She currently runs the Radical Books Collective which pushes for an alternative, inclusive and non-commercial approach to books and reading.