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Black & White

Past Event

Theorizing Care:
A Humanities Online Reading Course

Session One|09.02.2023|4-6pm (HKT)


Ellen Seiter


Ellen Seiter is a Chair Professor in Film and Television Studies and the Director of the Academy of Film at Hong Kong Baptist University.  From 2003-2022, Seiter held the Nenno Endowed Chair in Television Studies at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.  She has taught at The University of California, San Diego, Indiana University and the University of Oregon.  She is the recipient of the Society for Cinema Studies Pedagogy award, a career achievement award, as well as Mellon Foundation awards for mentoring Graduate Students and Faculty.  Her grants and honors include Fulbright, Volkswagen Foundation, Social Science Research Council, Macarthur Foundation, and the Annenberg Trust.  She has published dozens of essays on children’s media, Stereotyping, Feminist media criticisn, Women Directors, Audience research and melodrama and soap opera.  She is a filmmaker as well as a scholar.



Seiter, E. (1995). Children's Desires/Mothers' Dilemmas The Social Contexts of Consumption. In Sold Separately: Children and Parents in Consumer Culture. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.


Patel, R., & Moore, J. W. (2017). Cheap Care. In A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet. University of California Press.


Kwok, E. (2019). Little Manila: An Unlikely Crowd of Resistance in Hong Kong. Architectural Theory Review, 23(2), 287-314.


<Women and Cheap Care Work>

The first reading session focuses on the entanglement of gender and cheap care in the history of economic production. If ‘everything is production’ and human beings are made into productive ‘desiring-machines’, the readings reveal a well-kept secret of the production process: the continuation of production depends on the devalued care-work of women.

-A Summary Review by Jose Duke Bagulaya with support from Eric Feng

Reading & Discussion

  • What are the cultural similarities between ‘Little Manila’s World Wide House in Central and Chungking Mansions, which is also a space carved by Hong Kong’s minorities (particularly, Indians, Pakistani, Nepalese, Africans, and Filipinos)?

  • Given that the subrogation of care work is global (private international labor contracts are preceded by bilateral agreements between states), what does it tell us about states' role in this global exploitation of women?

  • This is such a carefully selected, rich and diverse material engaging with care. Thanks very much! I am particularly interested in the chapter on ‘cheap care’ and how the authors seek to foreground the intersectionality of race, gender, class and nature in the context of colonisation and capitalism and more. The domestication of humans and animals is a generative point, as well as the mastery over women, people of colour, indigenous people and nature (one that eco-feminists have long discussed). Along with other articles, I wonder if it is possible (if there is time) to hear from the session leader and other participants on these rich points, in particular on how diverse modes of care and exploitation might be entangled with different types of women. 


[ on being a mother in a patriarchal society in the global south ]

"I’m happy to read this chapter on cheap care. I’m also grateful for putting the summarized notes. They help me get an idea about what the course will be and this month’s reading specifically. When you were talking about your own experience, it reminded me of my experience in Pakistan. They deducted my medical allowance when giving me maternity leave...There is hardly any concept of paternity leave here. In Pakistan, it is a very patriarchal society, men are not expected to take care of the children. Though it is slowly changing with the new generation. Still, it is very slow. If men help on things, others ask ‘why are you doing that?’ Mothers can do that and things like that. In the case of state responsibility, I think I still consider myself in a privileged position since I received three months of maternity leave...Domestic help here is very common. Domestic helpers are paid low wages, they do not have rights such as their right to maternity leave. If they get these benefits it is just based on the goodwill of the employer. We do not have regulations on that. I hope I would be able to write about it in the context of Pakistan."

[ Compares UK and Denmark. The difference between care as bureaucratic compliance and real care ]

"I might just reflect a little bit comparatively between Denmark and UK. I’m in the UK right now with responsibilities of my staff and students as head of school. There are many strikes going on. In my opinion, the strikes are very well justified. The working conditions in the higher education sector are very difficult for a lot of people. In the Danish context, many academics have their first child while they are on a Ph.D. stipend. It’s a very generous stipend provided by the Danish government. It became a practice for women to be pregnant while taking the Ph.D. It also became a practice not to schedule meetings after three thirty, because the assumption is that women need to go and pick up their children. This actually looks so good, but it is not reflected in pay parity and career progression later on. So you might think this is a rosy picture and expect that this state support and division of care will result in a very high level of equity. But strikingly it does not."



What an enormous pleasure to meet Prof. Ellen Seiter (who joined us at midnight and stayed with us till 2 A.M. in LA!😱😱) and all of you who participated in our first reading course. We had the most wonderful two hours chatting about diverse topics on care, parenting, gender, domestic helpers, digital media, and more. We cannot imagine a more perfect kick-off than what we had yesterday!

Again, thank you, our dearest Ellen! ❤️

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