Neoliberalism, Care Ethics, and Graphic Medicine

  • Sathyaraj Venkatesan Associate Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Institute of Technology, Trichy.
  • Ancy A Livine Research Scholar
Keywords: neoliberalism, interdependence, graphic medicine, somatographies, care ethics, caregiving, relationality


Neoliberalism’s generic propensity to glorify human independence and autonomy overlooks the inevitable vulnerabilities and the concomitant dependencies. Further, idealising such disembodied conceptions marginalises interdependence, relationality, and the ubiquity of care. Neoliberal tendencies, which belittle the socio-political and cultural importance of care, are countered by the ethics of care philosophy. Defending humans as relational entities, the care ethics offers philosophical credence and legitimacy to dependencies caused due to old age, illness, and impairment. Against such a background, graphic somatographies play a distinctive and productive role in representing the inevitability of interdependence and care caused by illness. Drawing theoretical insights from Martin Buber, Arthur Kleinman, Joan C Tronto, and others, this article examines how caregiving provides alternative ways of living for ill/disabled people and their caregivers and shows the significance of caregiving against the backdrop of neoliberal policies. This article also presents how the interdisciplinary field of graphic medicine fortifies the inevitability of dependency and care as an embodied practice.

Author Biography

Sathyaraj Venkatesan, Associate Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Institute of Technology, Trichy.

Associate Professor,

Department of Humanities & social Sciences,

National Institute of Technology, Trichy.


Adams, Rachel. “The Art of Interspecies Care.” New Literary History 51.4 (2020): 695-716. doi:10.1353/nlh.2020.0043

Bell, Kirsten and Green, J. “On the perils of invoking Neoliberalism in Public Health Critique.” Critical Public Health 26.3 (2016): 239-243.

Brown, Wendy. “Sacrificial citizenship: Neoliberalism, human capital, and austerity politics.” Constellations 23.1 (2016): 3-14.

Buber, Martin. I and Thou. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1970.

Butler, Judith. “Companion Thinking: A Response.” New Literary History 51.4 (2020): 687–694. doi:10.1353/nlh.2020.0042

Caduff, Carlo. “Hot Chocolate.” Critical Inquiry 45. 3 (2019): 787–803.

Chast, Roz. Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? A Memoir. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014.

Couser, G. Thomas. “Is There a Body in This Text? Embodiment in Graphic Somatography.” a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 33.2 (2018): 347–373. doi:10.1080/08989575.2018.1445585

Couser, G. Thomas. Signifying Bodies: Disability in Contemporary Life Writing. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009.

Czerwiec, et al. Graphic Medicine Manifesto. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2015.

DeFalco, Amelia. “Graphic Somatography: Life Writing, Comics, and the Ethics of Care.” Journal of Medical Humanities 37.3 (2016): 223-240.

DeFalco, Amelia. “Moral Obligation, Disordered Care: The Ethics of Caregiving in Margaret Atwood’s Moral Disorder.” Contemporary Literature 52.2 (2011): 236–263. doi:10.1353/cli.2011.0023

Engel, George. “The Need for a New Medical Model: A Challenge for Biomedicine.” Science 196. 4286 (1977): 129–136.

Farmer, Joyce. Special Exits. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2014.

Ferguson, James. “The Uses of Neoliberalism.” Antipode 41 (2010): 166–184.

Fineman, Martha. “Masking Dependency: The Political Role of Family Rhetoric.” In The Subject of Care: Feminist Perspectives on Dependency, Ed. Eva Feder Kittay and Ellen K. Feder. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002. 215-244

Gordon, Suzanne, Patricia Benner, and Nel Noddings, eds. Caregiving: Readings in Knowledge, Practice, Ethics, and Politics. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996.

Harvey, David. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Held, V. The Ethics of Care: Personal, Political, and Global. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Kingfisher, Catherine, and Jeff Maskovsky. “Introduction.” Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development 30. 2 (2001): 105–121.

Kittay, Eva Feder. Love’s Labor: Essays on Women, Equality, and Dependency. London: Routledge, 1999.

Kleinman, Arthur. “Caregiving as Moral Experience.” Lancet Perspectives 380 (2012): 1550- 1551.

Lavio, Mireille, et al. “The Nature of Care in Light of Emmanuel Levinas.” Nursing Philosophy 7 (2006): 225-234.

Leavitt, S. Tangles: A Story about Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2012.

Lewis, Bradley. “Planetary Health Humanities—Responding to Covid Times.” Journal of Medical Humanities 42 (2020): 3–16.

Mack, S. Janet & Me: An Illustrated Story of Love and Loss. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.

Miller, Sarah Clark. “Need, Care, and Obligation.” The Philosophy of Need. Ed. Soran Reader. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 137- 160.

Mol, Annemarie, Ingunn Moser, and Jeannette Pols. “Care: Putting Practice into Theory.” Care in practice: On Tinkering in Clinics, Homes and Farms 8 (2010): 7-27.

Slote, Michael. “Care Ethics and Liberalism.” Care Ethics and Political Theory. Ed. Daniel Engster and Maurice Hamington. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. 37- 50.

Tronto, Joan C. Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care. London: Routledge, 1993.

United Nations. “The 17 Goals.” United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. (2020). <>

Venkatesan, S. “Graphic Medicine Manifesto, by M. K. Czerwiec, Ian Williams, Susan Merrill Squier, Michael J. Green, Kimberly R. Myers, and Scott T. Smith.” Journal of Graphic Novels Comics, 7. 1 (2016): 93–94.

Venkatesan, S. and Peter Anu Mary. “Towards a Theory of Graphic Medicine.” Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities, 11. 2 (2019): 1-19.

Walrath, Dana. Aliceheimer’s: Alzheimer’s through the Looking Glass. Pennsylvania: Penn State Press, 2016.

Wrenn, Mary V., and William Waller. “Care and the neoliberal individual.” Journal of Economic Issues 51.2 (2017): 495-502.

How to Cite
Venkatesan, S., & Livine, A. A. (2021). IN DEFENCE OF CAREGIVING. Journal of Dharma, 46(3), 377-392. Retrieved from