Call for Papers: Societas Ethica’s Annual Conference

Call for Papers: Feminist Ethics and the Question of Gender
Societas Ethica’s 55th Annual Conference, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium — 23-26 August 2018

Why should feminist ethics and gender be a central focus in the work of philosophical and theological ethics? While this question has been discussed within the fields of feminist and gender theory, philosophers and theologians have often overlooked the category of gender in their work.

Is feminist ethics a distinct ethical theory, or rather a category of inquiry in any approach to ethics? How does the feminist perspective enrich our ability to address such subjects as power, social, cultural, and political participation, poverty, racism, misogyny, homo/transphobia, economic inequality, and healthcare? And how does this lens sharpen the reinterpretation of
normative understandings of moral, ethical, and religious traditions? To what degree is the rise of nationalism connected with normative imageries of masculinity and femininity, which now require ethical interrogation, especially against the backdrop of social disintegration?

At our conference, we want to strike a balance between theoretical inquiries and historical or contemporary case studies.
We welcome contributions from philosophical, theological, and applied ethics, as well as from political and social theory, history, psychology, and the sciences. The conference languages will be English, French and German. The deadline for submitting proposals is 03 April 2018.


Proposals may be submitted for concurrent sessions addressing the following areas:

  • Feminist ethics, gender, and the traditions of ethics
  • Gender roles, gender identity, and gender justice
  • Concepts of autonomy and care
  • Concepts of masculinity, femininity, and gender fluidity
  • Gendered representations of the Divine
  • Embodiment and gender
  • Nature and freedom in relation to gender
  • The pandemic of sexual violence
  • Responses to sexual violence, such as #MeToo
  • Poverty, racism, structural injustice
  • Faces of misogyny and homo/transphobia
  • Sexual difference and “gender ideology”
  • Political, economic and healthcare inequalities
  • Aging and ageism
  • Nationalism and populism in relation to gender

Paper proposals should contain no more than 800 words (excluding bibliography), and clearly present a moral question or argument addressing one of the aforementioned topics. The deadline is 03 April 2018.

Please send in the following two documents as Word attachments to Dr. Silas Morgan at, using the subject line “Societas Ethica 2018 Conference.”

  • Document 1: Your name, first name, email address, institutional address, the title of your abstract, the topic under which your paper proposal falls, and, if eligible, your application to participate in the Young Scholars’ Award competition.
  • Document 2: Your paper proposal including bibliography (max. 10 references), keywords and title with all identifying references removed. Please use Times New Roman 12 pt for body, references and keywords, and Ariel (bold) 16 pt for headline.

The abstract of the conference papers will be published in the conference proceedings.
Selected papers (voluntary) will be published in a special issue of the journal De Ethica; A Journal of Philosophical, Theological and Applied Ethics.

Societas Ethica Young Scholars’ Award is awarded to the best presentation by a young scholar. Young scholars for the purpose of this competition are doctoral students and researchers who earned their degree less than two years ago and do not have a tenure-track academic position. For more information about Societas Ethica Young Scholars’ Award, please visit the website at

Societas Ethica – the European Society for Research in Ethics – has more than 270 members from approximately 35 countries. Led by the current president Dr. Hille Haker (Loyola University Chicago), Societas Ethica endeavors to stimulate contacts between scholars in different countries, surpassing political, ideological and religious curtains. We welcome papers from non-members and members.

Interdependency: The fourth existential insult to humanity

Tom Malleson, PhD recently published an interesting article on interdependency, from a care ethical point of view. He argues that taking interdependency seriously would lead to profound changes in our culture, our central political concepts, and even our major institutions. We contacted Tom Malleson for an insight into the background of the article and the author.


“I’m one of those academics who is always curious, always jumping around between disciplines, like some kind of intellectual nomad, between the fields of political science, philosophy, sociology, political economy, and feminist theory.
One strand of my research interest revolves around the study of Real Utopias, which are institutions designed to be both normatively emancipatory and empirically grounded. My interests in this area include things like economic democracy, the solidarity economy, basic income, participatory budgeting, carbon taxes, universal caregiving, and so on.

Another strand of my research interest involves certain debates in contemporary political philosophy. One of the major positions in political theory, as well as in the mainstream public, is that of libertarianism. I had long been uncomfortable with libertarian ideas – which conventionally start from a mysterious “state of nature” of independent men walking around in the woods, creating private property, and trading with other men. Where are the women in this picture? Where are the kids? Where are the disabled and the elderly, in short – where were the real human beings?”

Ethics of care feminists

“Thinking through these questions led me to feminist philosophy, and in particular, the work of ethics of care feminists. For them, a fundamental feature of human life is relationality and interdependency. Human beings are not born free. We do not emerge from the birth canal fully attired in suit and tie. In fact, human beings are born helpless, vulnerable, and inherently dependent on others. To the extent that we become free, it is due to the support, nurturance, and care provided to us by others.

Delving into this area made me realize all the myriad ways in which our current society is still tied to old ideas of “independence”; it is woven into our culture, our basic concepts, even our economic institutions. Yet once we come to grip with the fact of our actual interdependence, many of these old ideas and practices will need to change. That’s what this paper is all about.”

Malleson, T. (2017). Interdependency: The fourth existential insult to humanity. Contemporary Political Theory. doi: 10.1057/s41296-017-0167-2.
Read the full article here.
Tom Malleson
Tom Malleson

Tom Malleson

Assistant professor of Social Justice & Peace Studies at King’s University in Western University, Canada.
Research interests are interdisciplinary, crisscrossing contemporary political theory, feminist theory, political economy, philosophy, and sociology.

Merel Visse

Interview with Merel Visse, PhD, associate professor, University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

1. Where are you working at this moment?

Currently I work as an associate professor Care Ethics and Policy at the University of Humanistic Studies in The Netherlands. As a scholar and artist, I combine theoretical and practice-based work to inquire about the moral good in care. In addition to regular scientific output such as publications, I also make installations, objects, drawings, paintings, projects and communities.

I have received a grant of my university and for the next three years I will focus on the meaning of creative and artistic practice for understanding the moral good in care. I prefer to work in close collaboration with scientific and civic partners, like health care and policy institutions and local governments, so my work is always the outcome of a relational process. I also teach several courses for graduate students, such as care ethical qualitative inquiry, narrative inquiry and responsive evaluation.
On my website you can find an overview of my work, activities and inspirations.

2. Can you tell us about your research and its relation to care ethics?

Our view of care ethics is dialectical: we understand and foster good care by dialectically exploring care through both theoretical and empirical, practice-based, lenses (Leget, Van Nistelrooij & Visse, 2017)((Leget, C., Van Nistelrooij, I., & Visse, M. (2017). Beyond demarcation: Care ethics as an interdisciplinary field of inquiry. Nursing ethics, doi: 10.1177/0969733017707008.)). Originally, I began my work in care as an evaluator and qualitative researcher, but I’ve always had a strong focus on theory as well. During the last four years, we have developed a care ethical qualitative inquiry approach that is ‘fed’ by theories and practices of phenomenology, relational ethnography and responsive evaluation approaches. These are approaches that support us in understanding people’s singular and collective experiences with care.

But while working with these approaches, we felt a strong need for a different epistemology and method to enhance our understandings. It’s also due to a new ‘critical turn’ in qualitative inquiry that includes attention for the sensory and affective dimensions of care, and more. The process of drawing or working with photo voice and making artistic objects can be seen as a mode of inquiry. Looking at visual data, and producing visual data help us know differently than knowing through verbalized accounts.

So how to study care by the inclusion of attention for affective, sensory, embodied dimensions of life? I believe this is necessary, because as many care ethicists have emphasized, care is not a virtue, but a practice. And therefore we can only theorize and think ‘care’ by approaches that are congruent with a practice-view.

3. How did you get involved in care ethics?

After the publication of my book and PhD thesis, ‘Openings for Humanization in Modern Health Care Practices’((Visse, M. A. (2012). Openings for humanization in modern health care practices)) in 2012, I received a phone call from professor Frans Vosman. He read my work and invited me to join the Care Ethics group in Utrecht. It was the start of a path that has deepened my work and view on care ethics profoundly.

Originally, I was trained by professors Tineke Abma and Guy Widdershoven of the VU University of Amsterdam, Medical Humanities, who introduced me to the fields of responsive evaluation, qualitative inquiry, practice-based work and Gadamerian hermeneutics and empirical ethics. I was introduced to evaluation scholars like Bob Stake, Thomas Schwandt and Jennifer Greene with whom I’ve just developed a special Volume on Evaluation for a Caring Society (in press, to be published by IAP publishers this fall).

In my book from 2012, among other topics, I discussed the meaning of the work of Margaret Urban Walker in the light of several empirical (phenomenological) studies on how caregivers and care–receivers experienced good care. The book consists of published papers that – each in its own way and each based on empirical studies – were built upon the collaborative-expressive model of Walker. Professor Andries Baart, my former colleague, introduced me to a care ethical view on qualitative inquiry. That opened up a whole new way of thinking about ‘practising care ethics’.

4. How would you describe care ethics?

My father is in cultural heritage and as a child, I remember him closely looking at buildings. I learned that the material world embodies many traditions and stories. I remember him telling me about different kinds of mortar in between the bricks and how the mortar (which is tiny and detailed) strongly influenced the outlook of the whole. That is what care does, the performative dimension of care: just like mortar, it is in ‘liminal’ space, holding people together (or not) in ‘life sustaining webs’, to use Fisher’s and Tronto’s words. In addition, I saw my father negotiating with owners, engineers, restaurateurs and representatives of local governments. All these people had different stakes when living in and preserving the built environment. In hindsight I know that this is where my training in responsive evaluation (which is all about negotiation and dialogue) and later on, in care ethics began.

It’s a little bit of a long introduction to show you how my view on care ethics has grown. I see care ethics as a way of knowing and inquiring about what is ‘good’ in historical, aesthetical, temporal and spatial ways. Care ethics is an epistemology that is featured by hermeneutical understanding, listening and experiencing the world around us, together with others. It is about the moral dimensions of living in (and on) our own tapestry of people and relationships. Care ethics  – as described in Leget, Van Nistelrooij & Visse (2017) – asks about the normative in a dialectical way: honoring both theory and practice.

A practice view on care acknowledges that people and their lives are part of an intrinsic and complex tapestry that critically counter-thinks notions like agency, (self) management and  control. Care ethics acknowledges the ambiguity and complexity of everyday situations in care: that is what matters to me profoundly. People ‘undergo’ and ‘accept’ being in certain kinds of positions (e.g. of a caregiver and –receiver). Care ethics is, as my colleague Alistair Niemeijer so aptly phrased it, ‘inherently dialectic’. The dialectic nature of care ethics has been developed by our chair Carlo Leget in his publication on the re-examination on the empirical and the normative (Leget, Borry, De Vries, 2009)((Leget, C., Borry, P., de Vries, R. (2009). ‘Nobody tosses a dwarf!’ The relation between the empirical and the normative reexamined. Bioethics. 2009 May;23(4):226-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2009.01711.x.)). By keeping theory and practice ‘in tension’, care ethics can be further developed and understood.

5. Whom would you consider to be your most important teacher(s) and collaborators?

Currently, my most important teachers are outside the field of care ethics, if I may speak of an “in- and outside”. For example, I especially admire the work of the philosopher Hans Georg Gadamer and more recently, the French philosopher Jean-Luc Marion. I prefer to work ‘slow’: I learn through careful, slow reading and reflection.

Currently, my most important collaborators and teachers are my colleagues and (former) students of the Care Ethics group. We carry out research in collaboration with several Dutch cities and health care institutions and this work ‘in the mud’ humbles me and shows me new perspectives and challenges. Every project is run by a core team of researchers who I feel privileged to collaborate with.

Co-authoring papers with colleagues is very rewarding. I have written papers with colleagues, such as Alistair Niemeijer, Inge van Nistelrooij and Carlo Leget. With Tineke Abma, I have just developed a special Volume on Evaluation for a Caring Society. Several care ethicists contributed to that Volume, like Helen Kohlen, Karin Dahlberg, Maurice Hamington and Jeannette Pols, as well as several responsive evaluators like Melissa Freeman, Anders Hanberger, Gustaaf Bos, Hannah Leyerzapf and others.

I have always found myself on the intersection of several disciplines and I believe this is vital for the quality of my work. Now, while developing this Consortium, I discovered that there are so many people from a wide range of fields who contribute to care ethics and theory. I look forward to meeting them very much.

6. What publications do you consider the most important with regard to care ethics?

  • Eva Feder Kittay’s Love Labor
  • Joan Tronto’s Caring Democracy


  • Margaret Urban Walker’s Moral Understandings
  • Richard Bernstein’s Beyond Objectivism and relativism. Science, Hermeneutics and Praxis.

And with regards to our dialectical view between they and empirical work:

  • Johnson & Parry’s Qualitative Research for Social Justice.

7. Which of your own books/articles/projects should we learn from?

This depends on your own background and interests. Soon, the special volume on Evaluation for a Caring Society will be published (fall 2017, IAP publishers). In the past, I have published about different topics, mostly related to how to ‘operationalise’ care ethics as a political ethic. On my website, you can find an overview for my publications and projects. Please email me when you would like to receive one of my papers, I’d be happy to share them.

8. What are important issues for care ethics in the future?

I see many opportunities to increase the socio-political impact of care ethics. To do so, we need to build bridges between care ethicists who are conceptually oriented and care ethicists who mainly do empirical work, both empirical research and policy design and programs. By collaboration, we can create synergy. The new Care Ethics Research Consortium will be a platform for that.
I also believe in creativity. That is the topic I’m currently focusing on: creativity in the moral domain.

9. Do you know of any research-based projects in local communities, institutions or on national levels, where ‘care’ is central? Please describe

Yes: there are so many! Our research group carries out a rich variety of practice-based care ethical projects in close collaboration with several Dutch cities, residential elderly care institutions, hospitals, for-profit organisations (like a pharmacy) and communities. Most of these projects result in peer-reviewed publications as well. One example is a large Dutch elderly care organization that aims to work according to relation centered care. We facilitated an action-research project, based on a care ethical stance, to guide participants towards new understandings on relation centered care.

10. The aim of the consortium is to further develop care ethics internationally by creating connections between people who are involved in this interdisciplinary field, both in scientific and societal realms. Do you have any recommendations for us?

I would especially like to build bridges between conceptually and empirically oriented care ethicists, to develop international research grant proposals together. I believe that by increasing our practice based work, we will put care ethics more centrally on the societal agenda.

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Elena Pulcini

Interview with Elena Pulcini, Department of Political and Social Sciences (DSPS), University of Florence, Italy.

1. Where are you working at this moment?

I am a full professor of Social philosophy at the Florence University, DSPS. I teach at the Department of Philosophy in Florence.

2. Can you tell us about your research and its relation to care ethics?

The starting point for my main research path is a critique of modern individualism (the figure of homo oeconomicus) from two fundamental perspectives: the role of the passions in forming the subject and social bond, and the idea of difference (see my The Individual without Passions((Pulcini, E. (2012). The individual without passions: modern individualism and the loss of the social bond (K. Whittle, Trans.). Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.)) ). Owing to its attention to both these aspects, the ethics of care immediately struck me as very promising, not just because of its critical approach to the dominant liberal model, but also because it allows us to think normatively of a different idea of subject. Subsequently, and above all, the ethics of care has given me a precious viewpoint from which to put forward a philosophy of the global age (see my Care of the World((Pulcini, E. (2013). Care of the world: fear, responsibility and justice in the global age (K. Whittle, Trans.). Dordrecht: Springer.)) ).

3. How did you get involved in care ethics?

I discovered the ethics of care years ago on reading the text by Gilligan, In a Different Voice, which over a long period I also discussed in feminist and university groups. I found points of contact with two theoretical perspectives that were already present in my reflection: the feminist theory of difference (very widespread in Italy), and gift theory, inspired by Marcel Mauss.

4. How would you describe care ethics?

I consider very convincing the vision that describes care theories, despite their differences, as a contextual ethics based on the importance of relationships and interdependence, attentive to the everyday and at the same time capable of affecting the social and political dimension. And, above all, I appreciate the idea of an ethics based on sentiments and emotions.
However, I think that this last point needs looking into further: understanding which emotions and feelings are at the basis of a caring attitude in my opinion enables us to free care from the risk of an altruistic and sentimentalist vision and to better define the idea of a “good” care. It is on this aspect that my present research concentrates.

5. What is the most important thing you learned from care ethics?

The fact that people do not just act on the basis of interest or rational calculation, but also on affections, empathy and the consciousness of relationships. A fact that is now also confirmed by neuroscience. In this sense I have found further confirmation of what I had already learnt from gift theory and its radical critique of utilitarian individualism.
However, in the ethics of care, there is an aspect that I consider particularly important: the accent that it places, in some of its expressions in particular (e.g. Kittay), on the human being’s constitutive vulnerability and people’s reciprocal dependence on each other.

6. Whom would you consider to be your most important teacher(s) and collaborators?

For the critique of modernity, the Frankfurt School. For the critique of the modern subject, I would like to cite feminism (especially the theory of difference), French deconstructionism (Derrida, Foucault), and the Collège de Sociologie (Bataille, Blanchot). The concept of care is not very present in philosophy, but it is possible to find some points of contact, as well as in Heidegger, also in authors who have greatly inspired my research path, such as Anders, Arendt, Lévinas, Jonas, Nancy, the communitarians (Taylor), and Mauss and the gift theorists (Caillé, Godbout); and last but not least the ethics of sympathy (Hume, Smith, Scheler etc.).

7. What publications do you consider the most important with regard to care ethics?

The works by Carol Gilligan, Joan Tronto, Eva Kittay, Virginia Held, Michael Slote, Sandra Laugier and Fiona Robinson.

8. Which of your own books/articles/projects should we learn from?

  • Care of the World. Fear, Responsibility and Justice in the Global Age (2013)((Pulcini, E. (2013). Care of the world: fear, responsibility and justice in the global age (K. Whittle, Trans.). Dordrecht: Springer.))
  • Donner le care (2012)((E. Pulcini (2012). Donner le care. Revue du Mauss Semestrielle, vol. 39, pp. 49-66, ISSN: 1247-4819, EN vers. Giving the care.))
  • Per una filosofia della cura, in ‘La società degli individui’ (2010)((E. Pulcini (2010). Per una filosofia della cura. La società degli individui, vol. 38, pp. 9-19. Angeli. ISSN: 1590-7031.))
  • Care et convivialisme. Un commentaire du Manifeste convivialiste (2014)((Pulcini, E. (2014). Care et convivialisme. Un commentaire du Manifeste convivialiste. Revue du Mauss, 43,(1), 41-43. doi: 10.3917/rdm.043.0041.))
  • Quelques questions sur le convivialisme (2014)((Pulcini, E. (2014). Quelques questions sur le convivialisme. Revue du Mauss, 43,(1), 253-257. doi: 10.3917/rdm.043.0253.))
  • What Emotions motivate care?, in ‘Emotions Review’ (2016)((Pulcini, E. (2016)  What Emotions Motivate Care? Emotion Review. Volume:9, issue:1, pages: 64-71. doi: 10.1177/1754073915615429.))
  • Between Vulnerability and Contamination. Rethinking the Self in the Global Age (2016), in ‘Genero y Direito’, Centro de Ciências Jurídicas – Univ. Federal da Paraíba.((Pulcini, E. (2016). Between Vulnerability and Contamination. Rethinking the Self in the Global Age. Genero y Direito. V. 5, no. 03. doi: 10.18351/2179-7137/ged.v5n3p30-48. ))
  • Cura ed emozioni (2017); co-editor with Sophie Bourgault. Bologna: Il Mulino 2017 (forthcoming)

9. What are important issues for care ethics in the future?

I believe it is important to stress, as I hinted above, the research in the neurosciences, as well as the rediscovery of empathy (from Edith Stein and Max Scheler to Jeremy Rifkin), in order to consolidate the paradigm of care in its universalistic potentialities. I consider it fundamental not just to extend this paradigm to both sexes, and to the social and political dimension (as many care theorists already do), but also to show how it can bear fruits in proposing an ethic for the global age (an ethic for the environment and future generations).
I think that the idea of care is not just decisive in order to show the partiality of the liberal and mainstream paradigm of justice, but also to integrate and enrich the concept of responsibility (which I try to do in my book Care of the World): with respect to the abstract principle of responsibility, care introduces the fundamental dimension of concrete commitment, work and practice

10. How may care ethics contribute to society as a whole, do you think?

I think that care should become a way of life, a way of dealing with all the aspects of life, from the private to the social to the political. Against the pathologies of the contemporary age (individualism, narcissism, indifference, violence) care is a revolutionary word that can transform our vision of the world, and our relationships with each other, as well as with nature and the environment.

11. Do you know of any research-based projects in local communities, institutions or on national levels, where ‘care’ is central? Please describe.

As a philosopher I am not very familiar with practical projects and initiatives based on care in Italy. Nevertheless, on several occasions I have been able to collaborate with various initiatives (local associations, training courses, volunteer communities) that seem to testify to a growing interest and liveliness in this perspective at a practical level too.

12. The aim of the consortium is to further develop care ethics internationally by creating connections between people who are involved in this interdisciplinary field, both in scientific and societal realms. Do you have any recommendations or wishes yourself?

I think that it is an invaluable initiative to spread the ethics of care, and that the consortium can be very useful in this endeavour. I would like to add that, even though some fundamental texts on this topic have been translated into Italian and recently the attention of Italian scholars has grown, in Italy the ethics of care has not yet been paid the attention that it deserves. I hope that the CERC will make a significant contribution to this.

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Inge van Nistelrooij

Interview with Inge van Nistelrooij PhD, assistant professor Care Ethics, University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht, The Netherlands

1. Where are you working at this moment?

I am an assistant professor of Care Ethics at the University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht, The Netherlands. As far as we know, we have the only Master’s degree in care ethics throughout the world. Together with my colleagues Carlo Leget, Merel Visse, Frans Vosman, Alistair Niemeijer, Vivianne Baur and Anne Goossensen we teach (pre)master’s and graduate students, and do research here, in cooperation with many societal partners.

2. Can you tell us about your research and its relation to care ethics?

My PhD research was a philosophical-ethical study on self-sacrifice in caregiving (2014a, 2014b, 2015, 2017) and brought together care ethics, examples from literary fiction, movies and history, phenomenology, theology, political theory, and hermeneutics. My present research draws upon this work for thoughts and insights that I continue to elaborate and develop further. My research revolves around central insights of care ethics and care theory: relationality, affectivity, care as an attuning practice, embodiedness, vulnerability and dependency, and the political theory on care. I am now connecting all of these dimensions with empirical research. Also new themes emerge, like family care, care and the lived experience of pregnancy, birth-giving and child care, embodied forms of moral case deliberation, and the practice of belonging to a community.

3. How did you get involved in care ethics?

At the age of 18 I wanted to become a spiritual counsellor in hospitals and studied theology. There Annelies van Heijst introduced my fellow students and myself to care ethics. It felt like coming home: an ethical theory that drew upon everyday life’s questions, both on the personal, organisational and political level, that immediately struck a chord with me. Van Heijst’s work has not only become an enormous source of inspiration for myself, she has also developed our Master’s degree program in Care Ethics and Policy. So in more than one respect, hers are the shoulders on which we stand. Of course she was the supervisor of my doctoral thesis with which I graduated in 1995 (cum laude).

This thesis won the thesis award of the Tilburg University and was published as a book, not the first, but still one of the first Dutch books on care ethics, in 1996. As a result, I have been lecturing and publishing on care ethics ever since.

4. How would you describe care ethics?

Of course I could refer to the definition that my colleagues and me developed together (Leget et al 2017, forthcoming). But let me try to phrase it in some other words. Care ethics is an ethics that draws upon the practices to which we owe our lives, in which we are all inevitably involved and on which we spend time every day, i.e. the practices of care. Caring for ourselves, others we live with or meet, our environment, the world. Caring as a practice that essentially builds a ‘life-sustaining web’. What is more, caring is a practice in which we acknowledge and express who we are and aim to be personally and together with others, on an intimate scale with family, friends and colleagues, but also within institutions (e.g. the academia, health care), and as a society. Caring involves our body, our language, our attitude, our abilities, our knowledge and intuitions, the stories that we have heard and the inspiring examples that we received from other people’s lives, our best intentions, and our art. But no less does it involve our vulnerability and dependency, as well as our mistakes and failures, our pain and shortcomings, our misunderstood efforts and the inevitable harm that we cause each other. And care ethics draws upon all of this for seeking the good.

5. What is the most important thing you learned from care ethics?

A Dutch newspaper’s motto has been: ‘whetstone of the mind’. I think that this is what care ethics has taught me: to continuously sharpen insights. It taught me to challenge and change my thoughts and beliefs, over and over again. When I was a student, my thoughts about care and ethics differed quite a bit from what I have been thinking ever since I experienced pregnancy, becoming and being a mother, for instance. The enormous gap between what society expects of its citizens as entrepreneurs on the one hand, and the caring practices of personal life (caring for dependent others, being marginalized when dependent upon care) on the other, still puzzles me. And again, new perspectives challenged the previous ones when for years I taught ethics and trained professional caregivers in ethics. But really, I trained with them. They showed me the institutional and organizational pressure in which they work, the hierarchical power imbalance and lack of moral space, and also how and why they still, sometimes, found meaning in their work. New books and new teachers taught me to change my views again, for instance when submerging myself in French phenomenology and hermeneutics during my PhD study. Stories from fiction and real life, movies, experiences with loved ones who suffered or died, recovered or had to adapt their lives and identities to chronic illness, questioned the perspectives that I had understood before. And new government policies that transfer various forms of caring back into the informal sphere, on top of the care burden for the family, and how new forms of ‘belonging’ on a local level are expected to come about, lead to increasing need for research.

What I think all this comes down to, is that care ethics has taught me the importance of particularism, plurality, temporality, perspective, and the humble claims we can make of ‘truth’, especially in ethics. This does not lead to a conclusion of relativism, but rather to acknowledge the truth of a continuous, multidimensional, hermeneutical dialectic.

6. Whom would you consider to be your most important teacher(s) and collaborators?

As said above, Annelies van Heijst has been my most important teacher and collaborator. Further, I owe a lot to my PhD thesis supervisor Frans Vosman, who encouraged me to read Paul Ricoeur’s work. But it all began and still carries on with what I have learned from the works of Joan Tronto, Nel Noddings, Margaret Urban Walker, Eva Feder Kittay, Sarah Ruddick, and Carol Gilligan, of course. For my new themes I learn a lot from the works of Maurice Hamington, Helen Kohlen, Sophie Bourgault, my colleagues Carlo Leget, Merel Visse and Alistair Niemeijer, all of whom I am grateful to also cooperate with. New teachers, whose books inspire me and whom I would love to collaborate with in the future, are Christina Schües, Daniel Engster, and Jeannette Pols.  And I love the lessons, inspiration and collaboration that I continue to receive from all the professional and informal caregivers and care receivers whom I meet as friends and students and in my family.

7. What publications do you consider the most important with regard to care ethics?

The top 5 would be:

  • Joan C. Tronto, Moral Boundaries,
  • Eva Feder Kittay, Love’s Labor,
  • Margaret Urban Walker, Moral Understandings,
  • Sarah Ruddick, Maternal Thinking, and
  • Annelies van Heijst, Professional Loving Care.

But still, care ethics is developing and perhaps the most important publications are those who carry the torch at present, carving out new space in international politics, disability studies, feminist studies, health care policy, family ethics and family policy, philosophical anthropology, moral epistemology, environmental ethics (for which the Dutch Henk Manschot coined the term ‘terrasophy’), as for all of these there is still so much work to do. Naming just a few would do injustice to others. The establishment and development of this international care ethics research consortium, is essential for connecting people of all six continents together, preventing a fragmentation of care ethics.

8. Which of your own books/articles/projects should we learn from?

Probably my dissertation Sacrifice. A care ethical reappraisal of sacrifice and self-sacrifice (2015, Leuven: Peeters) would be valuable, but my recent articles draw upon that work and develop it further:

  • Nistelrooij A.A.M. van, Visse M.A., Spekkink A & Lange J. de (2017), How shared is Shared Decision Making? A care-ethical view on the role of partner and the family. Journal of Medical Ethics (doi:10.1136/medethics-2016-103791)
  • Nistelrooij, A.A.M. van & Leget, C.J.W. (2016). Against dichotomies: on mature care and  self-sacrifice in care ethics. Nursing Ethics, 1-10. doi: 10.1177/0969733015624475
  • Nistelrooij, A.A.M. van, Schaafsma, E.P. & Tronto, J.C. (2014). Ricoeur and the ethics of care. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 17 (4), 485-491. doi: 10.1007/s11019-014-9595-4
  • Nistelrooij, A.A.M. van (2014). Self-sacrifice and self-affirmation within care-giving. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 17 (4), 519-528. doi: 10.1007/s11019-013-9523-z

I am currently developing the following projects:

  • a care ethical view on pregnancy, giving birth and the practice of parenthood as an embodied and meaningful caring practice;
  • a care ethical view on ethical reflection (including non-verbal, embodied knowledge) and what this requires of the setting of a caring institution, together with prof. dr. Helen Kohlen, Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule Vallendar, Germany;
  • diversity and caring as co-creative practice in a (local) community.

9. What are important issues for care ethics in the future?

There are many. The core questions remain: how can we include the practices and experiences of everyday life in all its plurality and particularity in moral thought; how can we build a (national and international) society that puts these practices, experiences and knowledge central; and how can we thus carve out space for what those involved in caring experience, know, and have to tell. One of the most urgent questions, I think, in my Western society is the marginalization of those who cannot meet the demands of self-management, independence, participation, and finding their way in the institutional maze of care. Too many are simply overburdened with their condition, with their caring tasks either for themselves or for close others, and require that we as a society are affected by them and care for them. Instead, they are hardly heard, their caring needs are not met because they do not meet the strict criteria that the system poses, or they are losing their supporting network in a cycle of loss: loss of job, loss of status and means, loss of contacts and network, causing increased marginalization and loneliness.

10. How may care ethics contribute to society as a whole, do you think?

I think that the important thing for us to do is to keep sharpening our insights, uncovering real life experiences through empirical research, keep bringing our insights to the fore, educating students and thus disseminating our insights. The problem for small countries like The Netherlands is, that academic requirements demand us to publish in English, international journals. That is essential for the academic exchange, but it simultaneously is a serious threat for our societal impact in our own community.

11. Do you know of any research-based projects in local communities, institutions or on national levels, where ‘care’ is central? Please describe.

I see institutions trying to do so, especially institutions for those whom we used to call people with mental disabilities. But, as the organization Prisma has stated, we should call them people with a societal disability, as the problem is not their mental state, but the ways in which society makes it difficult for them to participate. We are developing our cooperation in research together with Prisma.

Also new, inclusive communities have come about and increasingly seem to grow in numbers, in which people with and without visible impairments live together.

But in our country the dominant discourse in politics, caring institutions and local communities is still that of autonomy, self-management, independence, etc. in a way that still marginalizes caring from the public and political deliberation.

12. The aim of the consortium is to further develop care ethics internationally by creating connections between people who are involved in this interdisciplinary field, both in scientific and societal realms. Do you have any recommendations for us?

I hope and wish that the consortium helps increase the impact of care ethics, by bringing researchers together and enabling cooperation in research and education. I definitely believe that cooperation leads to greater impact, that exchange inspires, that co-constitution of ethics improves its quality, and that care ethics will help build a better society for all. My wish would be to create an international structure that supports this research network. Thoughts that come to mind are: an expert centre that coordinates and supports an international journal, a website, a research fund, annual or biannual conferences etc.

Carlo Leget

Interview with prof.dr. Carlo Leget, Chair Care Ethics, University of Humanistic Studies, The Netherlands.

1. Where are you working at this moment?

Since 2012 I am a full professor in Care Ethics at the University of Humanistic Studies in Utrecht, The Netherlands. At the same university I hold an endowed chair in Ethical and spiritual questions in palliative care, established by the Association Hospice Care Netherlands.

2. Can you tell us about your research and its relation to care ethics?

My research is situated at the intersection between care ethics and spirituality or meaning, and my main area of expertise is in palliative care and end-of-life issues. In my view care practices are an important source for a meaningful life, and care ethics offers an excellent entrance to reflecting on meaning in a way that makes us aware of how the way we organize society has a great impact on what people experience.

One of my PhD-students e.g. interviewed older people who are tired with life – and who are the subject of a debate on euthanasia in my country – and was able to demonstrate that these people suffer from existential problems that are related to the way we have organized our society.

3. How did you get involved in care ethics?

I was trained as a theologian and during the writing of my PhD thesis on life and death in the theology of Thomas Aquinas I became more and more interested in ethics. I switched from theology to medical ethics, but I gradually became more and more critical to mainstream medical ethics. In 2009 I had the opportunity of switching to an associate professorship in care ethics and that has been a great inspiration ever since.

4. How would you define care ethics?

I see care ethics as an interdisciplinary field of inquiry to which many disciplines are contributing since the beginning of the 1980’s.

5. What is the most important thing you learned from care ethics?

I have a strong tendency to rationalize and abstract from the concrete messiness of life. That is why I was probably so attracted to the scholastic thinking of Aquinas – although getting to know him, I discovered that he is often misunderstood. What many people do not know e.g. is that he wrote the largest medieval treatise on emotions (passiones animae) in the Middle Ages.
When I was young, I was a typical ‘Jake’ kind of guy, and care ethics taught me to see the value of ‘Amy’s way’, to put it in terms of Gilligan’s book. Or to put it differently: epistemologically care ethics has turned my world upside down.

6. Whom would you consider to be your most important teacher(s) in this area?

This is hard to tell, because I have learned so much from so many authors. In the Netherlands I think Annelies van Heijst has been a great inspiration. Internationally the three authors that have changed my way of looking of things are Carol Gilligan, Joan Tronto and Margaret Urban Walker.

7. What publications do you consider the most important with regard to care ethics?

Another hard question. For me personally the books of these four women have been very important: Professional Loving Care, In a Different Voice, Moral Boundaries, and Moral Understandings. After the impact of these books, authors I got to know afterwards seem to be less ground breaking. But I know that my thinking is also influenced by many others, like Maurice Hamington, Daniel Engster, Helen Kohlen, Fabienne Brugères and Sophie Bourgault, to name but a few.

8. Which of your own books/articles should we read?

I think I did a decent job in my paper ‘Analyzing dignity: a perspective form the ethics of care’ that was published in Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy in 2013. And more recently I wrote a paper with the colleagues of my department with the title: ‘Beyond demarcation: care ethics as an interdisciplinary field of enquiry’ which will be published in Nursing Ethics this year. And last week my latest book came out, Art of Living, Art of Dying. Spiritual Care for a Good Death. Although I am a little reluctant to call it a care ethics work, it is very much inspired by a care ethical approach.

9. What are important issues for care ethics in the future?

For me the great thing about care ethics is that it opens a space for interdisciplinary cooperation inspired by a common idea of the importance of creating a complex and life-sustaining web that makes the world a better place to live in, to quote freely from Joan Tronto’s and Berenice Fischer’s definition. Such a web involves all kinds of connections between disciplines and traditions, and for me the integration of empirical and theoretical research is very important. But also the possibility to connect different approaches like phenomenology, practice theory and political theory in order to create something that does justice to the richness of the concept of care.

10. How may care ethics contribute to society as a whole, do you think?

By taking part in societal debates in newspapers, radio, television and social media, and presenting people a different way of looking at the world. But also by educating students. I am very proud of the Master’s degree in care ethics we run at our university, where (mainly) professionals are introduced to care ethics. When they return to their jobs they are important ambassadors of a care ethical way of looking at the world.

11. Do you know of any research-based projects in local communities, institutions or on national levels, where ‘care’ is central? Please describe.

There are many projects that come to my mind, but not all of them have reflected well on what care is. One project I am involved in myself focuses at enabling patients and families who are involved in palliative care to share their thoughts and worries on an existential level. I think palliative care is a very interesting field for care ethical reflection, because it is all about dealing with relationships, corporeality, vulnerability, power relations and meaning or spirituality.

12. The aim of the consortium is to further develop care ethics internationally by creating connections between people who are involved in this interdisciplinary field, both in scientific and societal realms. Do you have any recommendations for us?

My recommendation is that it is important to travel and to meet people face to face. We cannot live by reading and writing alone: if we take central insights of care ethics like the importance of corporeality seriously, we must meet in person and experience the personal concerns behind our scientific work. Building a care ethical movement is about more than transporting ideas. It is also about building a living network of relations. From there we will develop further agenda’s and collaborations.

Vivienne Bozalek

Interview with prof. dr. Vivienne Bozalek, University of the Western Cape in South Africa.

1. Where are you working at this moment?

I am working at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), Cape Town, South Africa. I was in the Social Work Department but am now working in the Directorate of Teaching and Learning, UWC.

2. Can you tell us about your research and its relation to care ethics?

My research is about how care ethics can be used as a normative framework to examine policies, practices and events, the use of care ethics in pedagogy, responsibility, privileged irresponsibility, care ethics and pedagogy, and latterly, care and feminist new materialist ethics.

3. How did you get involved in care ethics?

I studied at Utrecht University and my supervisor was Selma Sevenhuijsen – she introduced me to care ethics and because of this I included care ethics in my dissertation and we started a course for all first year students in the Faculty of Community and Health Sciences, UWC entitled ‘Introduction to the Philosophy of Care’. I was introduced to Joan Tronto through Selma.

4. How would you describe care ethics?

Care ethics is predicated a relational ontology which asserts that individuals or entities do not pre-exist relationships but come into being through relationships. As a relational ethics moral elements such as attentiveness, response-ability, rendering each other capable, responsibility and accountability are ways of ensuring flourishing and checking how well we are doing in relation to flourishing. This includes the human, non-human and more-than-human and the world at large – i.e. it is not human-centric.

5. What is the most important thing you learned from care ethics?

The most important thing I learnt from care ethics is that it assumes a relational ontology and this changes how we see the world. I also learnt from the political ethics of care that morality and politics cannot be separated. I learnt that care is not only important for humans or in private spaces but it is important in the more-than-human and in public spaces. Care and justice go hand-in-hand for me.

6. Whom would you consider to be your most important teacher(s) and collaborators?

Selma Sevenhuijsen and Joan Tronto.

7. What publications do you consider the most important with regard to care ethics?

  • Tronto’s Moral Boundaries, Chilly Racists, Work Ethic, Caring and Democracy,
  • Sevenhuijsen Citizenship and Care,
  • Barad’s interviews on matters of fact, concern and care,
  • Vinciane Despret’s work on rendering capable,
  • Haraway’s Staying with the Trouble,
  • Cynthia Willet Interspecies Ethics and
  • Eben Kirksey’s The Multispecies Salon.

8. Which of your own books/articles/projects should we learn from?

  • Bozalek, V. (2014) Privileged Irresponsibility In G. Olthuis, H. Kohlen and J. Heier (eds.) Moral boundaries redrawn: The significance of Joan Tronto’s argument for political theory, professional ethics, and care practice. Leuven: Peeters. 51-725
  • Bozalek, V. (2014) Integrating difference and care into social justice: Towards a normative framework for care, welfare & social cohesion. In V. Reddy, S. Meyer, T. Shefer & T. Meyiwa (Eds.), Care in Context: Transnational Gender Perspectives. Pretoria: HSRC.
  • Bozalek, V. (2015). Privilege and responsibility in the South African context. In Marian Barnes, Tula Brannelly, Lizzie Ward and Nicki Ward (eds.) Ethics of Care: critical advances in international perspective. Bristol: Policy Press, University of Bristol. Pp. 83-94.
  • Bozalek, V. (2016) Methodological tools for researching emotions: A political ethics of care perspective. In Zembylas, M. and P. Schutz Methodological Advances in Research on Emotion and Education. Switzerland: Springer pp. 191-202.
  • Bozalek, V. (2016) The Political Ethics of Care and Feminist Posthuman Ethics: Contributions to Social Work.In Richard Hugman and Jan Carter (eds.) Rethinking Values and Ethics in Social Work. Palgrave MacMillan. Pp. 80 – 96

9. What are important issues for care ethics in the future?

Climate change, the capitalocene, the plantationocene, the retraction of state services, the international swing to the right, continuing inequalities.

10. How may care ethics contribute to society as a whole, do you think?

Care ethics would change the way society is structured and enable participatory parity. Seeing the world from a relational perspective can assist in ‘staying with the trouble’ (Haraway, 2016) we find ourselves in. We need to foreground attentiveness, responsibility, accountability, rendering each other capable, response-ability in order to attempt to flourish as best possible. The ethics of care would enable this.

11. Do you know of any research-based projects in local communities, institutions or on national levels, where ‘care’ is central? Please describe.

Only the National Research Foundation project that I am currently involved with on Re-imagining higher education pedagogies.

12.  The aim of the consortium is to further develop care ethics internationally by creating connections between people who are involved in this interdisciplinary field, both in scientific and societal realms. Do you have any recommendations for us?

It would be great to have a colloquium or conference where we could bring people together or a broader research project which could accommodate the interests of a broader international group of care ethicists.

Vivienne Bozalek

June 2017

Between Care and Terror

Klaxon, an elektronic magazine about ‘living art in public space’, just published a special issue on Care and Terror. Last year, Joan Tronto spoke about this topic at a conference in Brussels. Now her contribution and others have been included in this issue, which you can dowload for free.


Confronted with terror, what can art do? “Care” was one of the options explored at Signal #5, here by Joan Tronto.

“My goal in this essay is to speak about care, and to show how this essential human practice can help us to cope with terrorism. At first glance, this must seem quite strange, since our first associations of care are with the intimate souci and soin, that go on in the household. What happens in such private settings surely cannot have anything to do with internationally motivated violence and disorder, can it?”

This Klazon issue also echoes artistic approaches that focus on interactive forms in society in the interest of the other, integrating the notion of care—without yielding to sentimentality in any form ((Klaxon 7: Between care and terror)).

Art facing Terror

See also our other post((Care and art in response to terrorism; Translated to English by Google Translate.)) with more on this Signal conference and this serie with more on art and care((Re-learn to look at art, research and care; Translated to English by Google Translate.)) (in Dutch). (For English, please use the ‘translate’ option of your browser or the direct links to the English translated pages in the below references).

Klaxon is an electronic Magazine about living Art in public Space

Klaxon reflects Cifas‘s interest for living artistic interventions in public space, an interest consolidated through the organisation of urban practice workshops, as well as SIGNAL, name behind which we organise on one hand, debates and workshops around practices and experiences of living art in public space, and on the other hand, urban artistic actions addressing Brussels’ urban fabric.

Six issues have been published focusing on living art in the city. Each successive issue examine this central theme from a different perspective.

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Helen Kohlen

Interview with prof. dr. Helen Kohlen, Philosophical-Theological University of Vallendar (Koblenz) in Germany.

1. Where are you working at this moment?

I am working at the Philosophical-Theological University of Vallendar (Koblenz) in Germany. It is a small private university that has just been building up an ethics institute in which I am working as a co-director. I teach ethics and palliative care in the nursing faculty. Since 2015, a visiting professorship at the University for Humanistic Studies in Utrecht brought about a close collaboration with care ethicists in Utrecht.

2. Can you tell us about your research and its relation to the ethics of care?

My research addresses the ethics of care in the context of health care practices and the distribution of care work in society. Within this broad research field and having a background in Health Care Studies, English Literature, Political Science and Nursing I have a number different interests.

My first book Conflicts of Care (2009) was based on a field research in clinical ethics. I studied hospital ethics committees in the US and in Germany by foregrounding the development of Bioethics. I found out that the ethics of care has historically been marginalized as a theoretical approach to understand conflicts in clinical practice. Since the language of care is hardly used in German hospital ethics committees, conflicts that could have been represented from an ethics of care perspective tend to be sidelined and dismissed.

Based on the findings, in 2010 a participatory action research project was designed with the intention of developing a program that would empower professional health care actors to move ethics in practice by bringing in care ethical perspectives. I have recently completed a chapter for a new edited collection, Evaluation, Care and Society. It is edited by Merel Visse and Tineke Abma and will be published soon.
My chapter is called Evaluation for Moving Ethics in Health Care Services towards Democratic Care and addresses care ethics as an ongoing practice that involves learning process of democratisation. It describes a model that consists of the three pillars Education, Companionship and Open Space.

3. How did you get involved into the ethics of care?

First, the ethics of care was a finding of my historical analysis ‘The move of bioethics to the bedside‘, seeing that the ethics of care appeared to be as a kind of counter-movement to US- American Bioethics in the 1980s.
Second, I read Elisabeth Conradi’s book ‘Take Care. Grundlagen einer Ethik der Achtsamkeit’ (2001) which I found very convincing. The book inspired me to read Joan Tronto’s book ‘Moral Boundaries. A Political Argument for an Ethics of Care’ (1994).

In 2006 I invited Joan Tronto to the University of Hannover in Germany and she had a lecture on the ethics of care and politics. Since then I have continuously been reading, writing and talking about the ethics of care. For example, I organized a conference (together with Hartmut Remmers) on Bioethics, Care and Gender and we published a collection of articles under this title (2010). In 2014 I coedited (with Gert Olthius & Jorma Heier) the book Moral Boundaries Redrawn. The Significance of Joan Tronto’s Arguments for Political Theory, Professional Ethics, and Care as Practice.

4. How would you define ethics of care?

I would define care ethics as a moral attitude and a set of practices that starts by seeing the human being as being basically dependent and vulnerable. The focus is the relational with regard to the concrete other and the concrete situation in time and space. In my studies I use care ethical questions within a critical lens to analyse what is missing in daily health care practices. These questions raise issues of conflict, power, inequality and irresponsibility.

5. What is the most important thing you learned from the ethics of care?

I have learned that ethics can never be separated from politics and that doing care ethics in the health care arena can never be separated from doing political care ethics. I have also learned that the ethics of care is a movement of people who try to stand up against neo-liberalism.

6. Whom do you consider to be your most important teacher(s) in this area?

Among the ones who have explicitly worked on the ethics of care I consider Carol Gilligan, Joan Tronto, Elisabeth Conradi, M.U. Walker, Annelies van Heijst, Eva Feder Kittay, Frigga Haug to be my most important teachers.

7. What works in the ethics of care do you see as the most important?

  • Carol Gilligan (1982): In a Different Voice, Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Harvard University Press;
  • Joan Tronto (1994): Moral Boundaries, Political Argument for an Ethics of Care. Routledge;
  • Tronto, Joan (2013): Caring Democracy. Markets, Equality, and Justice. New York, London;
  • Elisabeth Conradi (2001): Take Care, Grundlagen einer Ethik der Achtsamkeit. Frankfurt am Main 2001;
  • Annelies van Heijst (2011): Professional Loving Care, An Ethical View of the Healthcare Sector. Peeters – Leuven;
  • Philips, Susan; Benner, Patricia (1994): The Crisis of Care, Affirming and Restoring Caring Practices in the Helping Professions. Georgetown University Press.

8. Which of your own books/articles should we read?

  • Helen Kohlen (2009): Conflicts of Care, Hospital Ethics Committees in the USA and Germany. Campus Verlag;
  • Hartmut Remmers & Helen Kohlen (2010): Bioethics, Care and Gender, Herausforderungen Fur Medizin, Pflege Und Politik (in German). V&R Unipress GmbH;
  • Olthuis, Gert; Kohlen, Helen; Heier, Jorma (2014): Moral Boundaries Redrawn. The significance of Joan Tronto’s Argument for Political Theory, Professional Ethics, and Care as Practice. Peeters Publishers 2014;
  • Kohlen, Helen: Care transformations – attentiveness, professional ethics and thoughts towards differentiation. Commentary, Nursing Ethics 18, March 2011: 258-261 (peer-reviewed);
  • Kohlen, Helen: Sorge als Arbeit und Ethik der Sorge – Verbindungslinien zwischen beiden wissenschaftlichen Diskursen. In: Conradi, Elisabeth; Vosman, Frans (2016): Praxis der Achtsamkeit: Schlüsselbegriffe der Care-Ethik. Fankfurt, New York: Campus, S. 193-225;
  • Kohlen, Helen: Sterben als Regelungsbedarf, Palliative Care und die Sorge um das Ganze. Ethik in der Medizin, 2016, 28(1), 1-4.

9. What are important issues for the ethics of care in the future?

First, on a rather theoretical level, I think it is important to continue talking about the ethics of care and render visible what it can do in contrast to other theories.
Second, on a rather empirical level it needs to be shown what comes up when issues of concern are debated from a care ethics perspective as for example, in the area of bioethics, the debate about embryonic research.
Third, within the field of medicine and nursing it is important to refine the questions within an ethics of care for specific areas like neonatal care or dementia care.

10. In Utrecht our ambition is to promote ethics of care nationally and internationally. Do you have any recommendations or wishes?

I want to thank you very much for the excellent work you are doing in this area, currently, especially for organizing the Care Ethics Research Consortium.
From a teaching perspective I wonder, what could be done to distribute all the good work on the ethics of care that is already out there and I have the idea of writing a textbook for graduate students.
From a research perspective, I would be interested in a European Research Project on the Ethics of Care in Clinical Care.