Berkeley Books: "Forced to Care: Coercion and Caregiving in America" by Evelyn Nakano Glenn

Rebecca R. Falkoff
September 30, 2010
Image of the book cover art for Forced to Care. A young hand reaches to hold an older one.

Berkeley Books is a Townsend Humanities Lab initiative highlighting exciting new scholarship by Berkeley faculty and members of the campus community.   This month, we are proud to feature Forced to Care: Coercion and Caregiving in America by Evelyn Nakano Glenn, Professor of Gender and Women's Studies and of Ethnic Studies at Berkeley, and President of the American Sociological Association.

Forced to Care traces the ideological and material foundations of the current care crisis in the United States by weaving together two interconnected strands: unpaid care work within the family, on the one hand, and slavery, indenture, and other forms of coerced labor, on the other.  Bringing both forms of care labor into the same analytic framework, Glenn develops a rigorous and complex explanation of the devaluation of care work and the exclusion of both unpaid and paid care workers from critical rights such as minimum wage, retirement benefits, and workers' compensation. With a purview that stretches from the late-eighteenth century through to a present characterized by globalization, neoliberalism, and the dismantling of welfare programs, Forced to Carestudies shifts in the social organization of care and its forms of coercion.  The resulting historical narrative reveals how assumptions about gender, family, home, civilization, and citizenship have shaped the development of care labor and been incorporated into law and social policies, and exposes the underlying systems of control that have resulted in women—especially immigrants and women of color—performing a disproportionate share of caring labor.

Forced to Care represents a timely contribution to national debates about healthcare.  By shedding light on the historical factors that result in a contradiction between American beliefs about the value and importance of caring and the exploitation of those who actually do the caring, Glenn clears a space from which to rethink the organization of care in the United States. 

Glenn’s scholarly work has long focused on the dynamics of race, gender, class, and citizenship in processes of inequality and exclusion.  Her publications includeUnequal Freedom: How Race and Gender Shaped American Citizenship and Labor(Harvard University Press, 2002), Mothering: Ideology, Experience and Agency(Routledge, 1994), and Issei, Nisei, Warbride: Three Generations of Japanese American Women in Domestic Service (Temple University Press, 1986), as well as numerous articles, and the edited volume Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters(Stanford University Press, 2009).   She is currently at work on two new projects: one will study how immigrant activists are challenging dominant conceptions of citizenship and belonging; another will theorize and study race, gender, and class intersectionality.

In this week’s Biblio-file, Glenn presents a field of scholarship on gendered and racialized care labor by recommending nine books that shaped her thinking while working on Forced to Care.