Caring about water in Camden, New Jersey: social reproduction against slow violence

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This paper examines the heightened demands of social reproduction amidst the slow violence of environmental harm. In doing so, it contributes to feminist scholarship bridging environmental and reproductive justice. Through a case study of water provisioning in Camden, New Jersey, the analysis reveals the added burden of gendered care-work under racialized conditions of environmental insecurity, where many suspect threats to community health but are denied legitimacy for their claims. I show how residents contest official declarations of water quality through narratives of water insecurity, linking everyday injustices to histories of slow violence. Such insecurity intensifies the gendered and racialized labor required to care for children. As mothers mitigate risk through daily provisioning, many resort to buying bottled water in an effort to gain control over their reproductive labor. While it may seem that mothers are opting for privatized solutions, they frame this strategy as a necessary response to the state’s failure to secure the conditions of social reproduction. Situating mothers’ everyday care-work alongside activists’ critiques of privatization, the paper advances a multi-scalar analysis of environmental justice that connects the intimate, embodied sphere of reproduction to the institutional terrain of neoliberal restructuring. Key to this struggle is combatting neoliberal logics of mother-blame that locate risk within the labor of caregiving. Ultimately, I argue, struggles to sustain reproductive labor against the threat of slow violence illuminate the need for collective infrastructures of care that prioritize life-making over profit-making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1423-1445
Number of pages23
JournalGender, Place, and Culture
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Demography
  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


  • Environmental justice
  • mothering
  • slow violence
  • social reproduction
  • water insecurity


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