Theory and Society

, Volume 44, Issue 5, pp 393–414 | Cite as

From “making toast” to “splitting apples”: dissecting “care” in the midst of chronic violence

  • Javier AuyeroEmail author
  • Kristine Kilanski


Scholarship has tended to focus on the deleterious impacts of chronic exposure to violence, to the detriment of understanding how residents living in dangerous contexts care for themselves and one another. Drawing on 30 months of ethnographic fieldwork, this article examines two sets of practices that residents exercise in the name of protecting themselves and their loved ones. The first set (“making toast”) includes the mundane, “small acts,”—often embedded in routine—that residents draw on in an effort to form connections and create order in a fundamentally chaotic and stressful environment. The second set (“splitting apples”) involves the teaching and exercise of violence in the name of protecting daughters and sons from further harm. Using interviews and field notes, we argue that both sets of practices, when viewed in situ, reveal an “ethics of care.” Resisting the urge to either romanticize or sanitize these efforts, we engage with the difficult question of what it means when an expression of “care” involves the (re)production of violence, especially against a loved one.


Protective carework Family violence Argentina Violence in Latin America Urban ethnography 



Special thanks to Raewyn Connell, Senior Editor of Theory and Society, and three Theory and Society reviewers for their extremely helpful comments. An earlier version of this article was presented at the Urban Ethnography Lab at the University of Texas-Austin. Thanks to the participants for their insightful suggestions. The National Science Foundation (Award SES-1153230), the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, and the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin provided funding for this project.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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