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Carework as a form of bodywork

  • JULIA TWIGG (a1)
    • Published online: 01 July 2000

The paper argues for the importance of recognising carework as a form of bodywork. It discusses why this central dimension has been neglected in accounts of carework, pointing to the ways in which community care has traditionally been analysed, the resistance of social gerontology to an overly bodily emphasis, and the conceptual dominance of the debate on care. Drawing on a study of the provision of help with bathing and washing for older people at home, it explores the body dimension of the activity, looking at how careworkers negotiate nakedness and touch, manage dirt and disgust, balance intimacy and distance. Finally, the paper draws together some of the key themes of this bodywork: its designation as ‘dirty work’, its hidden, silenced character, the low occupational esteem in which it is held and its gendered nature.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Dr Julia Twigg, Department of Social and Public Policy, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NY; e-mail:
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Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
  • URL: /core/journals/ageing-and-society
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