Cultures of Care | Elliot Kukla | Learning Guide

Learning Guide

Key Themes

The key themes are thematic focal points that anchor the conversations around care for each dispatch. They can be used by educators and facilitators to prepare for learning, drive and structure conversations, and plan for connections to media/art/current events/personal contexts.


Rest as a radical
transformation of systems

A lack of rest, Elliot reminds us, is connected to a lack of sick leave that fueled the pandemic, burnout as individuals, the practices of factory farming, and much more. If we are to value all living things over the requirements of capital, rest must be a dedicated practice, supported by policy interventions in labor, housing, food production and healthcare, as well as social expectations of ourselves and others.

Elliot references the spiritual practice of Shabbat, a central tenet of Judaism, as an example of valued rest. As Elliot shared, “It's not an individual responsibility to make your time to rest, but a collective one that we all have time to rest.”


Practices to metabolize
rapid change and loss

Elliot’s work creates ways for people to metabolize change and grief individually and collectively. At the outset is the basic acknowledgement of grief and loss, and creating the space and time for this. The lack of systemic protection and space for this process is a reflection of the lack of humanity within our systems.


Acknowledging the planet
as sick and disabled
rather than “curable”

There is increasing acknowledgment that we are not in an “on or off” situation with climate change. Similarly, disabled people and people living with chronic illness are not in an “on or off” experience. Elliot’s work emerges from the legacy of disability justice. Rather than seeking to “cure” disabled people or gauge whether someone’s “quality of life” is good enough, Elliot counsels that we must think about adaptation to what's right in front of us and how to make life more sustainable and whole right now. Disability justice leaders and disabled people have already been theorizing and practicing adaptation and wholeness in the context of survival.

Video Guide



Identify some examples of invisible care. What are some of the factors that invisibilize this form of care? How does invisibilizing care hinder interdependence?



Elliot suggests that rest is required to be able to dream and imagine. What are some of the conditions you need to dream and imagine your future, a new world, new systems? What is happening in your life when you feel unable to dream or imagine?


What is at stake if we do not value rest? Consider yourself, your community, and the world.

The Wisdom of Disability Justice


Elliot references disability justice advocate Patricia Berne’s idea that “all bodies have strengths and needs that must be met.” How does this differ from dominant notions of what it means to be disabled?


What are some of the factors that are leading both humans to chronic illness and the planet to chronic illness? What feelings surface for you when you think about this?


What does Disability Justice teach us about giving and receiving care?

Language Around Care


What factors contribute to the idea that care is something owed to us? Does this idea show up for you in your life? Do you feel deserving of care? Are you comfortable receiving care from others?


Imagine a government or society that is designed around the idea of unconditional care.

  • What does unconditional care look like?
  • What institutions exist to provide unconditional care?
  • What roles are required to serve people in these ways?

Vulnerability, Value, and Care


Elliot discusses how his work caring for people taught him that if he is not receiving care from others, his work is charity.

  • What keeps us from being comfortable with receiving care?
  • Do you think we should be critical of “charity”? Why or why not?

Extended Learning

Gratitude for the Invisible Care


Review Mierle Ukeles long-term performance “Touch Sanitation” in which she personally thanked and shook hands with all 8,500 sanitation workers in NY City.


Create something to express gratitude for a form of “invisible care.” This could be a letter, a video, a card, collage or anything else you feel moved to create. In your messaging express a way you will make this form of care more visible and identify who you are expressing gratitude to.

A place designed to Rest & Dream


Imagine your school principal approaches you about structuring a school day that creates space for resting and dreaming. Create a schedule (in any format you choose) of what this school day would look like. Consider the following:

  • What other “classes” would be offered?
  • What kinds of physical spaces would need to be accessible at your school to support this kind of school day?
  • How will teachers and school staff also be given space for rest and dreaming?
  • How does the structure of classes change?
  • Feel free to elaborate and consider other things not listed above.
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