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I have had the privilege of engaging in a series of interviews with a group of people I describe as ‘Tenders,’ who have shared with me depictions of the work they carry out. These ‘Tenders’ are people whose work involves tending to the needs of others. I have focused specifically on in-home health caregivers--employees who care-take and attend to the “damaged” of our society--the disabled, ill and elderly who are often flung to the margins.
In this ethnography I explore the complexities of home health care via theories of ‘emotional work,’ ‘role performance,’ and ‘gendered labor’ among others. Utilizing my ethnographic interviews, these prior concepts are interrogated; as health aides or Tenders speak for themselves.
Following this ethnography, I will be performing monologues I have crafted from these interviews. I suspect that the requirements of a theatrical performance will not only provide an interesting vehicle to report the findings of this fieldwork, but that because of the psychological-emotional components of framing a performative oral ethnography (the specific depth and insight of dramatic performance) there may be an enhancement of the interviews themselves. I want to straddle both the world of the performative and the world of the ethnographer in order to find something universally human within the words of these ‘Tenders’. As we listen attentively to others, we begin to make room for voices that our culture desperately needs, namely, voices that give a window on the depth and breadth of experience far too often hidden and obscured.
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Sekoff, Hallie, "Tenders at the Margins: An Ethnography of Home Health Care Workers" (2012). Senior Projects Spring 2012. 227.
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