Coming up: Posthuman and Political Care Ethics for Reconfiguring Higher Education Pedagogies

Coming up: Posthuman and Political Care Ethics for Reconfiguring Higher Education Pedagogies. Edited By Vivienne Bozalek, Michalinos Zembylas, Joan C. Tronto

This bookmakes an important contribution to ongoing debates about the epistemological, ethical, ontological and political implications of relational ethics in higher education. By furthering theoretical developments on the ethics of care and critical posthumanism, it speaks to contemporary concerns for more socially just possibilities and enriched understandings of higher education pedagogies.

The book considers how the political ethics of care and posthuman/new feminist materialist ethics can be diffracted through each other and how this can have value for thinking about higher education pedagogies. It includes ideas on ethics which push those boundaries that have previously served educational researchers and proposes new ways of conceptualising relational ethics.. Chapters consider the entangled connections of the linguistic, social, material, ethical, political and biological in relation to higher education pedagogies.

This topical and transdisciplinary book will be of great interest for academics, researchers and postgraduate students in the fields of posthuman and care ethics, social justice in education, higher education, and educational theory and policy. Read more

New: Care Ethics, Democratic Citizenship and the State, by editors Petr Urban and Lizzie Ward

This book reflects on theoretical developments in the political theory of care and new applications of care ethics in different contexts. The chapters provide original and fresh perspectives on the seminal notions and topics of a politically formulated ethics of care. It covers concepts such as democratic citizenship, social and political participation, moral and political deliberation, solidarity and situated attentive knowledge. It engages with current debates on marketizing and privatizing care, and deals with issues of state care provision and democratic caring institutions. It speaks to the current political and societal challenges, including the crisis of Western democracy related to the rise of populism and identity politics worldwide. The book brings together perspectives of care theorists from three different continents and ten different countries and gives voice to their unique local insights from various socio-political and cultural contexts. Read more

COVID-19 pandemic: A Crisis of Care

By Andreas Chatzidakis, Jamie Hakim, Jo Littler, Catherine Rottenberg, Lynne Segal (Care Collective)

The novel coronavirus outbreak is a new global crisis. Yet the current crisis is not only the result of a new pathogen circulating around the world. It is also a crisis of care. Here the Care Collective (Andreas Chatzidakis, Jamie Hakim, Jo Littler, Catherine Rottenberg, Lynne Segal) outline the contours of the crisis of care, and how we can think care work different.

We are in a global crisis: a new historical moment. The days pass, the virus expands its reach, fatalities rise and the world goes into unprecedented lockdown. Yet the current crisis is not only the result of a new pathogen circulating around the world. It is also a crisis of care, the result of decades of neoliberal policies prioritizing profit over people. Years of austerity measures, deregulation and privatisation, alongside the devaluing of care work has meant that neoliberal nation states—particularly countries like the US, the UK and Brazil —are unable to cope with the spread of coronavirus. Governments, which have for too long based their policies on the needs of the few and ‘economic growth’, are scrambling to find solutions. 

Yet this global calamity is also a moment of profound rupture where many of the old rules no longer apply—and where governments can change our reality in a blink of an eye. As with all moments of rupture where norms crumble, the current one also provides us with a critical opportunity: an opportunity to imagine and create a different world—not just in the immediate but also in the long term. And if the pandemic has taught us anything so far, it is that we are in urgent need of a politics that puts care front and centre of life.

In the midst of this global crisis we have all been reminded of how vital robust care services are. Care is not only the ‘hands-on’ care people do when directly looking after the physical and emotional needs of others. ‘Care’ is also an enduring social capacity and practice involving the nurturing of all that is necessary for the welfare and flourishing of human and non-human life.

What, then, would happen if we were indeed to begin to place care at the very centre of life, not just for short term crisis, but the longer term?

Interdependence

To imagine a world organised around care, we must first begin by recognising the myriad ways in which our survival is always contingent on others. A caring politics must first and foremost acknowledge our interdependence alongside the ambivalence and anxiety these connections routinely generate. Recognising our needs both to give and receive care not only provides us with a sense of our common humanity, but also enables us to confront our shared fears of human frailty rather than project them onto others. Acknowledging the complexity of shared human dependencies enhances our ability to reimagine and participate more fully in democratic processes on all levels of society, because working with and through contradictory emotions are key to building democratic communities everywhere.  Although we can never eliminate care’s difficulties, we can certainly mitigate them through building more caring kinships, communities, economies, states and worlds.

Caring Kinships

The traditional nuclear family with the mother at its centre still provides the dominant prototype for care and kinship. This is true even as same-sex couples have been increasingly incorporated into the traditional nuclear family model. Our circles of care have not broadened out in recent decades but actually remain painfully narrow.

Yet it is only by proliferating our circles of care—in the first instance by expanding our notion of kinship—that we can achieve the psychic infrastructures necessary for building a caring society that has universal care as its foundation. Diverse forms of care between all human and non-human creatures need to be recognised and valued. This is what we call ‘an ethics of promiscuous care’.

Promiscuous care means caring more and in ways that remain experimental and extensive by current standards. It means multiplying who we care for and how. Building on historical formations of ‘alternative’ care giving practices, we need to create the capacity for a more capacious notion of care. This is challenging because neoliberal capitalism’s underfunding and undermining of care have often led to paranoid and chauvinist caring imaginaries – looking after only ‘our own’. With adequate resources, time and labour people can feel secure enough to care for, about and with strangers as if they were kin. Such capacities are flourishing at the moment via the Covid-19 Mutual Aid groups, sprouting up in local areas during the pandemic, just as they did with AIDs support networks in the 1980s.[i]

Promiscuous care recognises that we all have the capacity to care—not just mothers, and not just women—and that all our lives are improved when we care and are cared for, and when we care together. To encourage promiscuous care means building institutions that are both capacious and agile enough to recognise and resource wider forms of care at the level of kinship. It means ending financial discrimination against single mothers,[ii] teaching boys emotional literacy and housework, and expanding care across communities.

Caring Communities

Questions of care are not just bound up with the intimacy of very close relationships. They are also shaped in the localities we inhabit and move through: in local communities, neighbourhoods, libraries, schools and parks, in our social networks, and our group belongings. But the deliberate rolling back of public welfare provision, replaced by global corporate commodity chains, have generated profoundly unhealthy community contexts for care. We see this in the UK in the decimation of the social care system and local hospitals cutting 17,000 beds over the past decade alone.

Communities that care stop the hoarding of resources by the few. Instead, caring communities need to prioritise the commons. Communities based on care ensure the creation of collective public spaces as well as objects: they encourage a sharing infrastructure. This means reversing neoliberalism’s compulsion to privatize everything.

Corporate control over increasingly atomised, impoverished and divided communities produces organised loneliness. Instead, the local spaces we traverse need to be built upon the desire for mutual thriving. This means cheap or free p­ublic transport and public lending facilities—local libraries of tools and equipment in addition to books. It means ending the costly and damaging outsourcing of care and other services by bringing them back into the public sector, or ‘insourcing’. In many countries this is process is happening on a temporary basis right now. These caring infrastructures need to become the new normal, supported by the state—not simply a product of crisis to be abandoned afterwards.

Instead of rewarding large corporations at a time of crisis, we need to deepen democratic participation and create co-operative communities: communities that enable us to connect, to support each other in our complex needs and mutual dependency.  This means using progressive forms of municipalism to expand public space, support co-operatives and shared resources; and it means being supported by caring states.

Caring States

A state can be caring if notions of belonging are based on recognition of mutual interdependencies rather than on ethno-cultural identity and racialised borders. A caring state is one in which the provision for all of our basic needs and a sharing infrastructure are ensured while, at the same time, participatory democracy, rather than authoritarianism, is deepened at every level, and the health of the environment is prioritised. This, of course, means turning the current priorities of the state on their head as well as renewing models of welfare and social provision, which even the most neoliberalised states are revamping to deal with the current pandemic. The UK, for instance, has now introduced sweeping, yet temporary, forms of welfare provision to “save the liberal free market”[iii].

The caring state, however, refuses the post-war Welfare state’s rigid hierarchies and sexual and ethnic division of labour, as well as all racialised policies.  Caring states need to rebuild and safeguard affordable housing, along with high-quality public schooling, university education, vocational training and health care. Public provision in the caring state does not revolve around cultivating dependences but what disability activists call ‘strategic autonomy and independence’, premised upon everyone receiving what they need both to thrive, with some sense of agency in the world. In other words, the state, while necessary to ensure the smooth provision of services and resources, must also be responsible for facilitating greater democratic engagement among communities. 

By prioritising a care-based infrastructure based upon recognition of our interdependencies and vulnerabilities, while ensuring all the necessary conditions for the mutual thriving of all, a caring state undermines the conditions that produce economic and environmental refugees and migrants. While no state can ever completely eliminate human aggression, relations of domination, or natural and human-made disasters, only a caring state provides the necessary conditions for the vast majority to flourish.

Caring economies

We need caring exchange arrangements that focus on cooperative networks of mutual support and which redistribute social and material wealth according to everyone’s needs – what we call a “universal care” model – at the local, national and, ultimately, international levels; and in which essential goods are collectivised. Markets should be regulated, democratically governed, and as egalitarian, participatory, environmentally sustainable, and caring, as possible. Wherever possible they also need to be locally embedded, since local markets are better suited for cultivating relationships among producers, traders and consumers, promoting green processes and stimulating community-making.

More democratic and egalitarian modes of ownership and governance are crucial, then, as is the collectivisation and nationalisation of key industries as well as the protection of our vital care infrastructures from the forces of marketisation and financialization. Caring markets can only be imagined as part of economies that prioritise people and other living creatures over profit. In the current pandemic, this need to put people first has become crystal clear, and even reluctant governments have now been forced to call upon manufacturers and those with relevant expertise to help make ventilators as part of a national effort.

Care for the World

A caring world can only be built from the understanding that we are all dependent upon the systems and networks, animate and inanimate, that sustain life across the planet.  Creating such a world entails broadening out from rebuilding and democratising social infrastructures and shared spaces at local, community and national levels into expanding alliances with progressive movements and institutions everywhere.

This means first and foremost rolling out a Green New Deal on a transnational level, while working toward the creation and democratisation of transnational institutions and networks whose goals are centred upon ensuring that the world’s population and the world itself are cared for.

Despite Trump’s pronouncements, the pandemic highlights the permeability of all borders. While caring states would provide all their inhabitants with a sense of safety, their borders need to be co-ordinated to ensure that, for instance, the current inevitability of migration does not drain certain parts of the world of needed population whilst overcrowding others. This will only be possible if care informs all other dimensions of our lives, diminishing the conditions that propels people to flee their homes out of economic necessity, war or climate emergency.

Caring states with sustainable economies and porous borders are the best possible route to global care and to transnational conviviality and cosmopolitanism, which sees through the hollow certainties of nationalism and cultivates a transnational orientation of care towards the stranger.  Our caring imaginaries must move beyond the nation state and to the furthest reaches of the ‘strangest’ parts of the planet.

This brings us full circle.  In the end, it is only by valorising rather than disavowing our global interdependencies that we can create any kind of caring world. Powerful corporations have often been the first to profit from the disasters their careless ways have helped to produce and exacerbate. But historically the opposite has also been true. Ruptures have paved the way for radical progressive change, as happened in the wake of WWII with the growth of welfare in many Western states and with successful independence struggles in former European colonies.

The challenge today is to build upon both those earlier moments of radical change and the current optic of what might, in fact, be possible in order to wrest back control from the power-grabbing 1% and their tyranny of social carelessness. For once, care for the vulnerable is being taken seriously, but this will disappear overnight—till the next crisis—unless we start to build more enduring and participatory infrastructures of and for care at every scale of life.

Ideas from The Care Manifesto, by the Care Collective, forthcoming with Verso.

This article was originally published on Verso (re-posted on care-ethics.org with permission).
 


[i] See also Pirate Care syllabus: https://syllabus.pirate.care/topic/coronanotes/?fbclid=IwAR2lNAsfGpdwg9t_60_Myn1ZFJ_OWZQl40p6gGVM_liv1yDvPG0XEtKrH9M

[ii] https://wbg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/FINAL-Covid-19-briefing.pdf

[iii] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2020/03/20/boris-must-become-socialist-face-nationalising-entire-economy/

https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/4617-covid-19-pandemic-a-crisis-of-care

How South Korea copes and its impact on care

Hee-Kang Kim
Hee Kang Kim – Korea University

Hello all,

I am Hee-Kang Kim from Korea University. Here is a short piece of information on how the government of South Korea is coping with the Corona virus and its impact on care. So far, Korea has rather successfully dealt with the Corona virus. Childcare facilities and schools are now suspended, but in the rest of social lives, people are spending their normal daily lives without the need for city closures or travel bans.

1. Currently, 80 percent of Corona confirmed cases have been caused by group infection in Korea. One of major group infection cases is occurring at nursing homes (nursing hospitals). Care receivers and caregivers are both the source of infection for each other and at the same time, the most vulnerable infection targets. Therefore, the government is strengthening special prevention management for nursing hospitals and care facilities across the country. In particular, several local governments have conducted full Corona virus infection tests on ALL persons (doctors, nurses, care receivers, caregivers, and other employees) involved in ALL nursing hospitals and care facilities.

2. Korea suffers from a shortage of masks, and the state regulates the supply and demand of masks (all Koreans can purchase two public masks a week.) The Seoul city government is distributing free masks to care workers (both institutional and home-based care workers). So far, the Seoul city government has been very active in improving the treatment and support of care workers in general. For example, in Korea, children and the elderly (12 or younger, 65 or older) are given free flu vaccines. In addition, the Seoul city government has been giving free flu vaccines to care workers since two years ago.

3. Childcare facilities and schools are closed. However, in case the child cannot be cared for at home, childcare facilities and schools are currently implementing the ‘emergency care’ system: from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., lunch and snacks are served to the children on government support. My child, who is in the second grade in the elementary school, is currently using ’emergency care.’ 

Because of the difficulty of using childcare facilities, if a worker uses family care leave, the original unpaid family care leave can be used as paid at present on government aid.

4. In addition, the national government and some local governments plan to provide emergency living funds (or disaster basic income) or are currently under discussion.

The above are short facets of Korea’s handling of the situation. More effort will be needed in the future. Also, since this is not a matter limited to a country, international cooperation and networks seem to be more needed.

Best,

Hee-Kang 

Spreading the Care: The Call for Global Solidarity

by Merel Visse and Bob Stake

Fragile City Installation by Priscilla Stadler. Photo: Marianne Barcellona.

In the course of a few weeks, our response to COVID-19 changed the world as we knew it. Suddenly, we became potential ‘vectors’ and ‘victims’ of the virus. We are forced to make small and large-scale decisions that affect our private and public lives. Hard decisions. Most of them are steered by doing everything in our power to prevent the virus from spreading. Bodies are framed as precarious biological and social bodies. All suitable framings and decisions, but more hard choices, need to be made. Choices on how we care. How could a caring approach help us to find our way of responding to the pandemic?’(1)

Concentric circles of care
To untangle and reflect upon what is happening, let us start with three concentric circles of care (2). This is an imagery: in reality, the circles intertwine, their boundaries are open. The first care circle is our intimate circle. It consists of the life-sustaining web of our family and friends, no matter if they are living in the same house, or far away. The second circle is the community that we are part of. Here, the web extends to our colleagues at work, acquaintances in our neighborhood, the cashier at our local supermarket, friends of friends, our spiritual or religious communities. The third care circle seems more distant and abstract, but is actually very nearby. It is the tapestry of all those who reside in respective countries, closely connected with the rest of the world. This circle is a national ánd global circle. In all circles, we are entangled with non-human livings, animals, gardens, rainforests, oceans, atmospheres: our ecology. 

First circle: listening and responding to our needs
In the first circle, care begins by connecting with ourselves, by closely listening to our bodies. Next, allying ourselves with reliable sources on our health and well-being. Organizations such as the Center for Disease Control teach us about what is happening, how it may affect our health and well-being, and what we can do. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the American immunologist who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, has become one of those reliable sources. So far, the media gave most attention to our physical health. We also need to care for our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Next, in our immediate care circle, care is about paying attention and listening to our own needs and the needs of close ones. Remember: needs are not always clear-cut or visible. Some may not tell us what they need, either because they do not know, or they have difficulty speaking up. Pay close attention when you sense something is ‘off’ with someone that you know. Ask. Probe. Ask again. Gradually, you will know what to do, but it may take time. Especially with COVID-19, people may be fearful to admit that they have symptoms. What if they are judged or blamed? Why not do our very best to refrain from any judgment, and instead show compassion and understanding as a form of care? Here, care is also about responding to our needs and to the needs of others. By responding and by taking action, we show and take responsibility. We do something for ourselves or others. We may buy them groceries, we may bring them to the doctor, we may even advocate for them, but many times simply sitting down with someone and taking the time to listen, can be a significant act of care.

Second circle: who we are together
In the second care circle, the circle of our community, we may need to revise our view on how to make the right decisions. Decisions on who needs care the most urgently, how to better protect nurses and doctors, or what should be done for the elderly or chronically ill, cannot be made from one stance only. We are connected with each other. Decisions are always culminations of who we are together.

We cannot expect that other people will take responsibility for situations that we are responsible for together. Who decides about who needs most the last pack of toilet paper? Instead of hoarding toilet paper, every one of us is called to care about the others by not buying all available goods. We need to practice solidarity. We need to trust. Share products with those who need it the most, trust that we will have enough for ourselves. There are no clear-cut ethical guidelines for us follow, the situation is too complex for general rules (but many are working hard to develop protocols) (4). We already see many stores putting a limit on products that people are allowed to buy. No more than three packages of medicine. But what if someone suffers from a chronic illness and is more vulnerable to infection than others? Should people without a chronic illness share their packages? Reaching decisions on what is the best path to follow, should take these subtle differences into consideration. Trust the pharmacist. Trust the receptionist.

Fragile City Installations by Priscilla Stadler. Photo: Priscilla Stadler

Third circle: a pandemic and caring society
On a national and international  level we are expected to be a ‘pandemic’ citizen (3). We are called to follow regulations by being a responsible citizen. We are demanded to act in the interest of the collective. Compliance, self-mastery and self-protection align with that vital view. This view is challenging too, because people are assumed to be rational beings, capable of compliance and self-mastery. The last few weeks show that reality may be different. People are capable, and vulnerable too. They cannot fully ‘self-master’ their lives all the time and in every situation. Some of us carry particular responsibilities that conflict with these expectations. For example, the care-worker who is exhausted but who carries on because nobody else is able to stand in. Who takes care of her?  Just as some citizens have gone crazy with gun violence, and just as some attempt to buy companies for exclusive rights on vaccines, we cannot predict how others will respond to the virus, nor can we predict how the virus will develop in the future. From a care perspective, we are open to learning about how to relate to this uncertainty in a meaningful way.

A care lens also invites us to acknowledge that we are caring citizens. Being a caring citizen, in line with Joan Tronto’s work on the homines curans (caring people), demands for us to see the human being as being closely interconnected with others in webs of care. Others as in other human beings, but also as in non-human others. Some of those others are more vulnerable and precarious. Yes: as a pandemic citizen, social distancing is crucial. As a caring citizen, we also search for ways to stay connected with close and distant others. To keep social distancing healthy, we need an outlook on how to support people who are living in isolation. How they can preserve and maintain their relationships, whilst complying with regulations. For many, being in isolation, at least for a while, may come with the gift of time, silence and solitude. But what if some do not experience this as a gift at all? What if our jobs are on the line? What if we miss graduation day? What if we lose that which makes us human: the experience of being close to someone or someplace we care about? Care in this third circle means expanding our response to the virus with a vision on how to protect the notions that are central to a global, caring society: solidarity, equity and trust.

Entwined solidarity
This is a call for a global solidarity. A solidarity that is not restricted to us as humans, but that respects our entanglements with matter and all living creatures. An entwined solidarity that assists us in responding to what is unravelling in and around us.

Learn more:
Laena Maunula, The Pandemic Subject.
Joan Tronto, Caring Democracy.

We want to thank Carlo Leget and Joan Tronto for reading and commenting on earlier versions of this text, and Priscilla Stadler for sharing images of her Fragile City Installation.


(1) Care is an interdisciplinary field of research that, in addition to public health, may offer us another perspective on our personal, communal and (inter)national well being (Leget, Van Nistelrooij, Visse, 2019).
(2) Emily Abel and Margaret Nelson used ‘circles of care’ in a different way in their book Circles of Care: Work and Identity in Women’s Lives, 1990.
(3) The pandemic citizen as a concept from critical health literature (Maunula, 2017)
(4) National Academy of Medicine; https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsb2005114

Care Ethics and Poetry

Care Ethics and Poetry is the first book length work to address the relationship between poetry and feminist care ethics.  

The authors argue that morality, and more specifically, moral progress, is a product of inquiry, imagination, and confronting new experiences. Engaging poetry, therefore, can contribute to the habits necessary for a robust moral life—specifically, caring.  

Each chapter offers poems that can provoke considerations of moral relations without explicitly moralizing. Topics include Poetry and Ethics, Habits of Caring Knowledge, Habits of Imagination, Habits of Encountering Singularity, and Moral Progress.  The book contributes to valorizing poetry and aesthetic experience as much as it does to reassessing how we think about care ethics.

Primarily a book of philosophy rather than literary analysis, Care Ethics and Poetry includes dozens of poems.  For those who view care theory as more than a normative ethic of adjudication, this will be an important work.

Care Ethics and Poetry by Maurice Hamington and Ce Rosenow.  
ISBN-10: 303017977X  ISBN-13: 978-3030179779

Reviews

“A lovely tribute to both poetry and care ethics and how, together, they increase moral sensitivity and joy in our relationships.”
Nel Noddings, Lee Jacks Professor of Child Education, Emerita, Stanford University

“Finally, a book that does justice to care by welcoming complexity, context and creativity. This polyvocal book delightfully and meticulously tells us the story about a performative and aesthetic approach to caring and moral progress. Slowly but surely, one becomes part of an intimate tapestry of voices of poets, ethicists and moral philosophers. Hamington and Rosenow not only provide us with new ethical language, they also evoke wonder and a longing for more.”
Merel Visse, Associate Professor of Care Ethics, University of Humanistic Studies, The Netherlands

Call for Papers: Care Ethics, Religion and Spiritual Traditions

Feminist Care Ethics has received extensive attention in a variety of fields over the past quarter century including political science, philosophy, education, social work, sociology and more. There has been relatively little discussion of Care Ethics in the field of Religious Studies. Surprisingly, given that virtually all mainstream religions hold care and compassion as a major tenet. Care Ethics and Religion will be a volume of original essays that fills this intellectual gap.

Editors Maurice Hamington, Carlo Leget, Inge van Nistelrooij, and Maureen Sander-Staudt invite papers on the topic of Care Ethics and religious teachings, traditions, identities, practices, practitioners, as well as atheism and humanist spiritual traditions. All contributions should engage feminist Care Ethics as exemplified by scholars such as Marian Barnes, Carol Gilligan, Nel Noddings, and Joan Tronto.

Prospective contributors should submit a 500 word abstract to SanderStaudtM@gmail.com by April 15, 2019.

Description

Care Ethics is a moral theory and interdisciplinary field of studies/enquiry, rooted in relations of interdependency and universal human needs for care. The ethic departs from moral theories such as Utilitarianism, Kantianism, and Neo-Liberalism in critiquing their individualistic, rationalistic, and abstract elements as distortions of lived human lives.

Care Ethics postulates that humans are universally born in need of embodied and social-psychological care. Making care ontologically prior to moral concerns such as justice. Despite the universal need for care which makes care-giving an essential practice without which human life would cease, the ethic situates care giving practices in particular places, times, and identities.

Given the extent to which care giving overlaps with richly diverse religious and spiritual identities, beliefs, rituals, and traditions, this volume seeks to expand the field of Care Ethics to consider how religion, construed for global religious and secular audiences, potentially enhances but can also destabilize the goals of care.

Commentary and analysis

The editors of this anthology invite critical commentary and analysis on how religion, both organized and less formally arranged, may facilitate or erode the normative goals associated with Care Ethics. To the extent that many religions recognize the human and embodied need for care, and valorize the moral obligation to give and take care as having a divine component, it is sometimes the case that religious practices enrich care.

At the same time, as a feminist ethic, Care Ethics is well situated to uniquely critique and question a wide variety of religious motifs, practices, and teachings in light of how well they do and do not succeed in completing the goals of care in ways that are competent and just. This volume seeks to initiate discussion of the possible affinities and strains between Care Ethics and religion, broadly construed, and to indicate areas in need of future study.

Topics

Possible questions/topics may include but are not limited to:

  • How does religion contribute to caring identity and practice?
  • Are caring virtues also religious virtues, and the converse?
  • Ideal syntheses of care ethics and religion/spirituality
  • Care-ethical and religious perspectives on precarity and compassion
  • Care as a religious motif
  • Care ethics, atheism and secular humanism
  • Care ethics and non-supernatural spiritual traditions (e.g. Buddhism, Taoism)
  • Care, religion, and anthropocentrism/relations with the natural world
  • Care as instrument of religious colonialism and oppression
  • Religion as catalyst for care completion and social equity
  • Care ethics and theology on love and compassion
  • Care ethics as a critique of religious theory and practice
  • Coping with suffering, death, and loss
  • Queering care ethics and religion
  • Spiritual violence and care
  • Care as a gendered and intersectional religious theme
  • Care, religion and sexuality
  • Care as a marginalized, disenfranchised, and appropriated concept in religion
  • Care and religion as slave moralities
  • The role of embodiment in religion and care
  • Contested concepts: care, love, compassion in religion
  • Care and God; the divine; good/evil; heaven/hell; the afterlife

Respecting moral diversity

Facing the death of other people, we are confronted with our deepest convictions of what makes sense and what does not. 

A mother of four should not die of breast cancer in her mid 40s, for this runs contrary to whatever possible order of justice in the world. A beloved father in a vegetative state should not die a horrible death when feedings tubes are withdrawn. Even when he had always stated that he would not have wanted to live in this condition. 

In most people, witnessing someone dying, evokes a multitude of emotions and thoughts, ranging from feelings of guilt or responsibility to sadness, anger or sometimes even joy. Emotions are important human reactions to situations, containing knowledge and appraisals of reality, and having an intelligence of their own.

Carlo Leget discusses in an editorial in the journal Palliative Medicine the importance of understanding and respecting emotions of family members of dying patients. It, for example, mentions the importance of culture in ethical issues, and how difficult it can be to respect cultural diversity, especially when it touches upon our deepest felt emotions and convictions. ​

“Ethics is a cultural product based on a shared legacy and lived experience reflected in a particular language, history, and traditions. “

Ethics, emotions and culture: Respecting moral diversity

The experience of being involved in the dying process of another person has an impact on almost every human being. Whether this involvement is that of a professional care giver, a relative or a volunteer seems of secondary importance.

The direct confrontation with a dying process is an experience that confronts us with the finitude and irreversibility of human existence. In most people, this evokes a multitude of emotions and thoughts, ranging from feelings of guilt or responsibility to sadness, anger or sometimes even joy.

Emotions are important human reactions to situations, containing knowledge and appraisals of reality, and having an intelligence of their own.

Read more »

  • Leget, C. (2018). Ethics, emotions and culture: Respecting moral diversity. Palliative Medicine, 32(7), 1145–1146. Doi: 10.1177/0269216318777905

Caring democracy: current topics in the political theory of care

Introduction

In 2013, political care ethicist Joan Tronto((Joan C. Tronto is Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota, Professor Emerita at the City University of New York and initiator of the Care Ethics Research Consortium www.care-ethics.org.)) applied a care-ethical view to democratic theory in her book Caring democracy: Markets, equality and justice, and invited scholars from all over the world to think about democracy from a care-ethical perspective.

Petr Urban((Petr Urban, PhD, is Head of the Department of Contemporary Continental Philosophy at the Czech Academy of Sciences)) took up this invitation by organising the ‘Caring Democracy’ conference, with the aim of discussing current topics in the political theory of care in order to contribute to a more caring democracy. Hosted by the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences, the conference was held at the Karolinum, a historical building located in Prague’s Old Town.

The conference programme consisted of a keynote talk by Tronto and work presented by 16 experts from 11 countries. The conference attracted an international audience who actively participated in the discussions. The well-arranged coffee breaks and lunches were excellent moments for attendees to get to know each other and to exchange information.

Keynote

Professor Joan Tronto delivered the keynote address on ‘Neopopulists and exclusionary discourses of care: towards a new politics of inclusion’. She started by stating that we should no longer see care as just a ‘practice’ and a ‘disposition’; we need to think of care as a discursive practice and as ‘an idea that functions in powerful ways’. In the first edition of the International Journal of Care and Caring (IJCC) in 2017, Tronto offered a critique of, and an alternative to, the political discourse of neoliberalism, noting that it is important to rethink the allocation of care responsibilities, but within a democratic framework. In her keynote address, Tronto paid attention to the discourse of neopopulism now evident in the US and Europe as new problems arise, and explained why it is a problematic framework while proposing an alternative one. Tronto explained that neopopulists can be characterised by their shared concerns, for instance, people who feel threatened by immigrants and call for additional security to protect society. She argued that we could not offer an alternative until we understand these beliefs within a discourse of care. To do that, we first have to look at those who vote for neopopulists, and why.

Recent research indicates that especially men, less educated people, those with religious affiliations and majority ethnic groups opt to vote for neopopulists, seeking security and economic protection, with neopopulist leaders responding to these concerns within a context of care: ‘Take care of yourself, blame others’. Tronto associates this discourse with a traditional breadwinner–caregiver model, that is, vulnerable women are protected by strong men who feel good about carrying the responsibility to protect their families. She stressed that we have to understand that neopopulists cling to familiar traditions out of fear. However, this traditional model of caring no longer works in an increasingly diverse society in which women and men have become more equal. Most importantly, this model creates greater levels of economic inequality and endangers democracy. Tronto posed the following question: ‘How can we offer an alternative to this old-fashioned model of caring and formulate a better argument from the political Left to challenge the neopopulists’ framework?’.

Tronto underlined that she does not yet have a precise answer to the question, but she does know that good practices of care and governmental change towards a more caring democracy will help. According to Tronto, care generates more care. She shared some examples showing how new spaces and conditions have created opportunities for strangers to connect and care for each other across racial, age and economic lines: senior citizens spending time in a childcare facility with the children of working parents; and people asked to invite their previously unknown neighbour to share a meal. In Tronto’s words: ‘We don’t need to be afraid, we need to be more caring’. Tronto’s keynote address encouraged us to think about a caring democracy as an alternative political framework to neopopulism, and showed how opportunities to create a more democratic society can be centred around care.

In celebration of the first ever annual CERC conference in Portland, USA this week the latest International Journal Care & Caring special issue is free to access until 30 September.

Contributions

The two-day programme included papers on a range of topics addressing areas related to the political theory of care. At the end of the conference, Tronto summarised the contributions of the papers in three categories: (1) the conceptualisation and meaning of ‘caring democracy’; (2) ‘democratic practices’; and (3) ‘appropriate methods’ for researching topics in care ethics.

In the first category, Elizabeth Conradi’s (DE) paper reflected on conceptualisations of ‘care’ and showed that these often refer to either an ethical-political dimension or a welfare-resourcing dimension, with a tension emerging between these two dimensions. Conradi proposed to separate the dimensions analytically because they translate into different kinds of practical questions, and are sub-structed by different political goals. Brunella Casalini (IT) addressed another conceptual gap, that is, between two different feminist traditions on the meaning of care: one with a vocabulary of care; the other with a feminist vocabulary. She compared both vocabularies by analysing the differences and similarities, and showed how they could be merged. Using a more philosophical language, including Nussbaum’s notion of ‘compassion’, Justin Leonard Cardy (US) presented his work on a philosophy of love, titled ‘Civic tenderness: love’s role in achieving justice’.

In the second category, Helena Olofsdotter Stensöta’s (SE) presentation defended the welfare state as a historical institution that can, under certain circumstances, be seen as a caring institution. Petr Urban (CZ) also stressed the possibility that state institutions care, arguing that, ‘Oftentimes, the tension between bureaucratic and caring values in the practice of public administration is healthy and productive’. However, there were also presentations about state-oriented practices that are not so caring: Lizzie Ward described a disturbing situation concerning elder-care in the UK, which showed the risks and responsibilities inherent in self-funded care; she stressed that intense vulnerability is not a good bargaining position. From the viewpoint of poor women in Japan, Yayo Okano and Satomi Maruyama presented examples that made clear that these women do not have a voice. The lack of care and of the opportunity to participate in political debates on poverty conceals the poverty of these women.

There were three presentations on the problematic role of the state in the field of education. Pokorný indicated that the Czech government shows little interest in education, especially in the school as a niche of positive deviation. Adriana Jesenková presented examples of practices in Slovakia that show the deficits of democratic care, as well as the importance of diversity and pluralism. In a presentation on caring, education and democracy, Tammy Shel pleaded for more philosophy classes in Israel in order to teach students how to debate in a proper way. In the long term, this should benefit democracy in her country. Furthermore, there were presentations that provided alternative ways of developing democratic practices: Jorma Heier (DE) postulated that democratic care starts from social movements, rather than from politics; Anne Cress (DE) explored the critical and transformative potential of care ethics; and Kanchana Mahedevan (IN) raised a global postcolonial concern, namely, that care goes beyond the boundaries of nation-states and causes new care inequalities. Concerning caring practices, Veerle Draulans and Wouter de Tavernier (BE) presented their research on culturally diverse elder-care and the complexity of the intersubjective relations of recognition in this field.

In the third category, the focus was more on the question of how to conduct research on care. The research presented included a variety of methods: Pokorný promoted phenomenology; Jesenková argued for pragmatism; Clardy defended the use of cognitive science; and others used philosophical analyses in various forms (eg Casalini and Cress). Research by Okano and Maruyama (JP), as well as Draulans and De Tavernier (BE), focused empirically on social science data, and Lizzy Ward showed an example of how co-production might be a way to think methodologically about care.

Tronto’s keynote address and the papers presented show that it is a challenging (But not impossible!) task to move from a neopopulist to a democratic framework in which care should be central in our society. Tronto closed the conference with an urgent call to continue to refine the feminist arguments of care and to engage in broader public discussions on care as a research community, and invited participants to become a member of the Care Ethics Research Consortium (CERC) (see: www.care-ethics.org).

  • Honsbeek, K. (2018) Caring democracy: current topics in the political theory of care (23–24 November 2017, Prague, Czech Republic), International Journal of Care and Caring, 2(3): 449–52, DOI: 10.1332/239788218X15355318754221

Krystel Honsbeek

Krystel Honsbeek MA

Krystel Honsbeek has a background in social work, and received her Master’s degrees in philosophy (Tilburg University) and care ethics (University of Humanistic Studies). Currently, she is a PhD student at the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment at the Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. Using a care ethical perspective, her research focuses on meeting care needs of older LGBT people in changing local care landscapes. Also, she is a social worker at autism organization Leermakers Zorggroep, and is a member of the editorial board of the Care Ethics Research Consortium.

Medical versus care ethics

As a former medical student – but not a doctor – studying the field of care ethics, I was always interested in bringing these two worlds together. Whereas the dominant (bio)medical ethics in healthcare revolves around four principles – beneficence, non-maleficence, respect for autonomy, and justice – care ethics questions whether morality can be derived from abstract principles and suggests it rather emerges from relational practices. As a medical student I wasn’t even aware of an, or any, alternative brand of ethics. Was it just me or was my lack of knowledge a consequence of medical education and the profession I was briefly acquainted with?

My years as a medical student had left me with a negative stance towards medical education and health care practice in general, without actually being able to explain why. My negative feelings were corroborated by several (non-)scientific sources describing harm in the medical encounter. In 2011, Elin Martinsen ((Martinsen, E. (2011). Harm in the absence of care: Towards a medical ethics that cares. Nursing Ethics, 18(2), pp.174-183.)) attributed this harm to the dominant ethics in healthcare.

She pleads to include “care as a core concept in medical ethical terminology” because of “the harm to which patients may be exposed owing to a lack of care in the clinical encounter,” specifically between doctors and patients. She leaves the didactical challenges arising from such a venture open for further enquiry. This left me with a chance to tackle both my personal questions and fill a scientific gap.

The informal and hidden curriculum of medical education

In this paper, medical education in the Netherlands is investigated through a “care-ethical lens”. This means exploring the possibility of enriching medical education with care-ethical insights, while at the same time discovering possible challenges emerging from such an undertaking. We present an overview of what is written on medical education, we describe care-ethical theories and what implementing these theories into medical education would imply, and we consider the accounts of several authors on the subject of care ethics and medical education.[pullquote]Master Care Ethics and Policy, University of Humanistic Studies.[/pullquote]

Personally, I have learnt most from further investigating medical education. Several authors offer alarming insights into its unintended, educational effects. Besides a formal curriculum or the explicated learning objectives, an informal and a hidden curriculum are also described. The informal curriculum is about the interpersonal level of teaching and learning between teacher and student. The hidden curriculum is also about learning objectives, but, as its name suggests, hidden, unintentional, and implicit.

What is so alarming about this, is that these curricula can lead to the erosion of expectations, ideals, and personal traits in students. Several examples of erosion have been described, such as the loss of idealism, adopting a ritualized professional identity, emotional neutralization, change of ethical integrity, tolerance of abuse, and acceptance of hierarchy. Students become hidebound, focused on facts, emotionally detached, cynical, arrogant, and irritable. Important to note here is that erosion doesn’t occur in every medical student nor does it always happen to the same extent.

Enriching medical education

What do these hidden, unintentional, and implicit effects of medical education imply for the possibility of enriching medical education with care-ethical insights? By connecting the collected bodies of knowledge on both medical education and care ethics, possible challenges are identified which can be narrowed down to two: didactical and non-didactical. These challenges might be overcome through focusing more deeply on the clinical phases of training and creating awareness of the medical morality and all that is implicit among healthcare practitioners.

With care ethics, we are dealing with a different way of thinking, one that deviates from what is currently dominant within the medical field, as I quickly realized leaving that field. We should not underestimate the possible resistance to a paradigm shift.

Eva van Reenen, MA Care Ethics

Van Reenen, E. & Van Nistelrooij, A.A.M. (2017). A spoonful of care ethics: the challenges of enriching medical education. Nursing Ethics. doi: 10.1177/0969733017747956

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