Workshop report „Care and Volunteering in Transformation“ (13-14 July 2020)

Authors: Martina Meiselbach and Nicole Götzelmann 

Ältere Frau zieht eine andere ältere Frau im Handwagen hinter sich her
Hauswald, Harald: Proskauer Straße, Friedrichshain, 1986/1990 SLUB Dresden / Deutsche Fotothek / Harald Hauswald, http://www.deutschefotothek.de/documents/obj/71679735

Care, volunteering and welfare are phenomena and institutions that have recently been brought to attention of the general public with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The relevance and the necessary appreciation of nursing and medical professions were discussed anew and the willingness to engage in volunteer work also experienced rising popularity. 

These ruptures in peoples’ everyday lives and in the political changes such as the urgent focus on public care and medical infrastructures triggered by the pandemic inevitably led to a change in status of welfare systems in the affected societies and countries. 

However, not only such sudden global outbreaks of infectious diseases, but also political upheavals and state transformation processes have had an impact on the perception and constitution of care and volunteering in the past. In order to discuss the changes that social care regimes and welfare systems in the GDR, Central and Southeast Europe had undergone with the transformation, 22 historians and anthropologists from numerous European countries participated in the digital workshop „Care and Volunteering in Transformation“. It was organized by the Hannah Arendt Institute for Totalitarianism Studies at the TU Dresden and led by Friederike Kind-Kovacs (HAIT, Dresden) and Maren Hachmeister (HAIT, Dresden), on 13-14 July 2020. The workshop focused on the development, professionalization and centralization of welfare systems under the impact of political and social changes. Some of the questions discussed during the workshop were: Which role did individual commitment play in the transformation process? What was the underlying motivation and how can the perceptions of both caregivers and the recipients of care be integrated into the structural adjustment processes of welfare systems during times of transformation? 

In her keynote, „Care: Reproducing Inequalities and shaping political transformation“, Tatjana Thelen stressed the social and community-building factors of care, both inclusive and exclusive. In this context she drew attention to income- and social status-contingent inequalities and asymmetries that determine who can lay claim to care and raised the question what an idealized concept in this respect might look like. Thelen concluded that care is a process that affects the infrastructural and governmental level of health care systems. 

Subsequently, the pre-circulated discussion papers of Ljiljana Pantović (Pittsburgh University, USA/Belgrade University, Serbia), Borbála Kovács (Aarhus University, Denmark), Nicole Kramer (Goethe University, Frankfurt a. M.) and Leyla Safta-Zecheria (West University Timișoara, Romania) were commented and discussed in the context of the first panel „Care in postsocialist transformation“. With regard to maternal health care in Serbia, Ljiljana Pantović found that the need of pregnant women for continuous treatment received only by a small number of persons and institutions created similar expectations concerning individual, private and state welfare systems and as a result, similar strategies were developed and applied in these sectors. Borbála Kovács sharpened the participants’ view on the prevalence of the maternal ideal in professions of care and welfare as well as the role of trust and self-help in relation to the organization of young childrens’ care in Romania. Looking at the GDR, Nicole Kramer emphasized the high level of professionalization of care for the elderly comparing the communal and solidary dispositions for care in East and West Germany. Finally, Leyla Safta-Zecheria discussed the example of Romanian orphanages and humanitarian film at the end of the Cold War to unveil that individual, voluntary commitment could not change the negative perception of state care. The presence of social aid organizations raised awareness for social problems. 

The second panel of the workshop was entitled „Volunteering in postsocialist care and welfare systems“. First, the paper „Continuities and ruptures of care: volunteering, civil society and maternalism in the Czech Republic“ by Rosie Read (Bournemouth University, UK) was discussed. She dealt with the transformation of the Czech health care system with special emphasis on religious orders and the development of volunteer programs for hospitals. She first discussed volunteering as a form of civic participation and thereby a (constitutive) part of civil society, focusing on purpose and intention of volunteers. As a second conception, Rosie Read presented volunteering as work. She categorized three types: care work, family care/maternity and nursing. The following paper by Jan Arend (University of Tübingen) „Stress and (Self-)Care. East German and Czech Patterns of Interpreting the Transformation Period“, focused on the term „stress“, tracing and discussing its historical origins. He presented the concept of stress and its ramifications in the context of care. Arend highlighted the aspect of how to take care of oneself and how to find a personal perspective for the future in the transformation society. The last paper, titled „From socialist to postsocialist humanitarianism: transformations of the Montenegrin Red Cross“ by Carna Brković (Georg August University, Göttingen) dealt with the concept of „humanitarianism“ and how it has changed after the fall of socialism. She suggested to include the concept of disagreement for the interpretative perception of humanitarianism. As an example Carna Brković referred to the 1975 Red Cross Conference on Peace, which also worked with the aspect of „being non-political“, and stated that „to understand transformations of care and voluntarism, we need to study the fights over how to be properly non-political“. Finally, she discussed archive material on the Yugoslavian Red Cross.  

Maren Hachmeister (HAIT, Dresden), Theresa Jacobs (SI, Bautzen), Beata Hock (GWZO, Leipzig) and Oliver Wurzbacher (ISGV, Dresden) commented on the two panels and discussed how care as an analytical concept can contribute to transformation research.  

In his final remarks, Thomas Lindenberger (HAIT, Dresden) noted that the individual contributions of the workshop illustrated how care has helped people through the stormy period of transformation. Moreover he pointed out that care and volunteering are by no means practices and institutions that were only invented in socialist or postsocialist societies, but can be traced way further back and therefore need to be embedded in a broader discourse of modernity. 

Workshop Program 

Welcome and Opening: Friederike Kind-Kovacs (HAIT, Dresden), Maren Hachmeister (HAIT, Dresden) 

Keynote: Tatjana Thelen (University of Vienna, Austria):
Care: Reproducing Inequalities and shaping political transformation.  

Panel 1: Care in postsocialist transformation 

Ljiljana Pantovic (Pittsburgh University, USA/Belgrade University, Serbia):
In search of continuity of care: Consumerism and privatization of maternal health care in Serbia.  

Borbala Kovacs (Aarhus University, Denmark):
The organisation of young children´s care in Romania- a new kind of familialism. 

Nicole Kramer (Goethe University, Frankfurt a.M.):
Take good care: Old age, home help services, and the meanings of care in 1990s Germany. 

Leyla Safta-Zecheria (West University of Timișoara, Romania):
“Romanian orphanages” and humanitarian film around the end of the Cold War. 

Opening of the session 
Chair: Friederike Kind-Kovacs (HAIT, Dresden) 
Commentaries on papers: Maren Hachmeister (HAIT, Dresden), Theresa Jacobs (Sorbisches Institut, Bautzen) 
Responses by speakers: Ljiljana Pantovic/Borbala Kovacs/Nicole Kramer/Leyla Safta- Zecheria 

Panel 2: Volunteering in postsocialist care and welfare systems 

Rosie Read (Bournemouth University, UK):
Continuities and ruptures of care: volunteering, civil society and maternalism in the Czech Republic. 

Jan Arend (University of Tübingen):
Stress and (Self-)Care. East German and Czech Patterns of Interpreting the Transformation Period. 

Carna Brkovic (Georg August University, Göttingen):
From socialist to postsocialist humanitarianism: transformations of the Montenegrin Red Cross. 

Opening of the session 
Chair: Maren Hachmeister  
Commentaries on papers: Beata Hock (GWZO, Leipzig), Oliver Wurzbacher (ISGV, Dresden) 
Responses by speakers: Rosie Read/Jan Arend/Carna Brkovic 
Final remarks: Thomas Lindenberger (HAIT, Dresden) 


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