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.

Care

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.

Hee-Kang Kim

Interview with dr. Hee-Kang Kim, University of Korea, South Korea.

1. Where are you working at this moment?

I am working at the department of Public Administration at the Korea University.

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

I teach public philosophy, normative policy analysis, and women’s studies at the university. My research interests are social justice, care ethics, feminism, and the normative understanding of public policy. Especially recently, I am interested in re-evaluating public policy and identifying and rectifying the injustice of society from the perspective of care ethics. In 2016, I published a book, Gyubeomjeok Jeongchaek Bunseok [A Normative Policy Analysis], which was selected as an excellent academic book by the Korean Academy of Sciences.

I am currently writing a book on the caring state where care ethics is treated as one of the important normative principles of justice on which laws and major institutions are grounded. In addition, there are three other research projects currently under study.
The first is the study of care as a constitutional value. In this study, I argue that care which is inevitably linked to freedom, equality, and justice should be treated as a constitutional value. In particular, I think this study is very important to contribute to Korean society, which is currently discussing the amendment of the Constitution.
The second is the study of the theoretical elaboration on care ethics. In this study, care ethics as a moral and political theory is referred to as “carism,” and the non-liberal and non-communitarian nature of “carism” is sought.
The third is about the democratization of care. The existing socialization of care has contributed to the challenge of the private/public distinction and the social recognition of care. However, the democratization of care is a study on the quality of the socialization of care which can go a step further in the socialization of care and judge which socialization of care is good.

3. How did you get involved in care ethics?

I have been interested in the literature of care ethics from the viewpoint of social justice and feminism. Recently, I have translated several major books (Joan Tronto’s Caring Democracy, Eva Kittay’s Love’s Labor, Virginia Held’s The Ethics of Care, and Daniel Engster’s The Heart of Justice) on care ethics into Korean and introduced them to South Korea.

4. How would you describe care ethics?

In short, it is a theory that redefines the value of care at the societal and political level.

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

On the individual level, I think, care ethics reminds us of our fundamental and nested ethical duty (which is preceded by a priori rights) to others who live together. On the societal level, care ethics provides a normative perspective that helps to identify and rectify the persistent and systematic inequalities and injustices of society. On the global level, care ethics provides a motivation where intimate care for our families and neighbors is transferred (transited) to care for others in distant countries.

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

I have been largely influenced by Iris Young’s study on structural injustice, although she is not a scholar of care ethics. I also get a lot of inspiration from the studies by Eva Kittay, Joan Tronto, Virginia Held, Daniel Engster, and Selma Sevenhuijsen. In South Korea, there are a few scholars who study care-related theory, and there are a number of scholars who study carework and care-related social policy.

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

Joan Tronto’s Moral Boundaries and Eva Kittay’s Love’s Labor.

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

Much of my existing research is to re-evaluate public policy/social policy from the normative perspective of care ethics. What is written in English includes “Is Long-term Care Insurance in South Korea a Socialising Care Policy?” (Critical Social Policy 36(4), 2016) and “Basic Income and Care Ethics” (unpublished). My current project is a book on the caring state. There are some published articles in Korean related to the subject of this book. It aims at identifying and rectifying the structural inequality of society from the viewpoint of care ethics and drawing the philosophical foundation, system, and policy of government compatible with care.

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

Perhaps in principle, defining the concept of care and formulating the theory of care ethics are likely to be the most challenging issues in future research.
First, although care is a universal experience from which everyone is inescapable, care relationships are very particular depending on the specific context and situation. In particularly, how to define care in different cultural and national contexts would be a difficult task to challenge.
Second, it is about establishing the theory of care ethics. The establishment of the theory of care ethics, which is distinct from other moral and political theories, such as liberalism, communitarianism, and republicanism, would be a major challenge for the future.

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

Care ethics can contribute to making society more just and better. It is because care ethics allows us to know how much individuals and society are exposed to social justice by our negligence of care responsibility, and thus have contributed (un)consciously to social injustice. As a result, care ethics reminds us that we have a shared and collective responsibility for a better society.

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

There has not been much care-related research in South Korea. Recently, however, Korean translations of major books on care ethics have been introduced to the public. Apart from the theoretical research on care, many care-related policies are being proposed by central and local governments since the current Korean society faces the serious social problems of low fertility and aging.

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 hope that this consortium can demonstrate the possibility of care ethics outreaching around the world. I am firmly convinced that care has the full potential to do so. Just as the concept of human rights, which emerged from abstract natural law, has contributed to changing the world for the last fifty years, so care, which is not abstract but comes from everyday experiences of everyone, can contribute to making the world better in the near and foreseeable future. What we need to do now is to re-establish the value of care. This is where care ethics plays. I hope the consortium will be the beginning of this.

Leslie Swartz

Interview with Leslie Swartz, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa.

1. Where are you working at this moment?

Most of my work is in the area of disability studies, with a special emphasis on disability rights issues in Southern Africa. I also work on mental health issues.

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

It is impossible to work in the area of disability studies and not be interested in some way in care ethics. In our work on disability and access to health care, we are interested in the role played by informal paid or unpaid workers in disability care. In other work on language and access to mental health care, we have come to see the crucial but often invisibilised role played by cleaners and security guards in health care in low income contexts.

These are just two examples. I have also done some reflective work on questions of exploitative relationships with care workers in the context of chronic illness, drawing on my own experience with the illness and death of my mother.

3. How did you get involved in care ethics?

I worked on a project with Vivienne Bozalek and Brenda Leibowitz and others on university transformation issues in South Africa and it was Vivienne and Brenda who introduced me to the field. Vivienne then invited Joan Tronto to South Africa and I grew very interested in her work. I am quite marginal to the field of care ethics – it is not my main area of concern but it has really influenced my thinking.

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

Two apparently simple things, but profound for me and my thinking:  that we all rely on care all the time, and that care is often made invisible, with this invisibility often linked to exploitation commonly on lines of race, gender, class.

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

In the care ethics field in South Africa I have been very influenced by Vivienne Bozalek and Brenda Leibowitz, and Joan Tronto’s work is very important to me. More generally, I am very fortunate to have a wide range of people I work with in disability studies and mental health, some of them senior to me but some of them my students and I have learned from them all.

One person who had a huge influence on me personally and professionally was the late Alexander Phiri, who was secretary general of the Southern African Federation on Disability (SAFOD), which represents Disabled People’s Organizations in ten southern African countries. Alexander was a consummate disability activist who was seriously concerned with the political and personal development of people he worked with. He was very open and not doctrinaire, and extremely pragmatic.

He lived in Zimbabwe and witnessed multiple assaults on rights, including the rights of disabled people, and he was able in a range of ways to make changes in difficult contexts. He also had the openness and generosity to accept me as a white non-disabled South African man to do some work for his organization – he was very aware of difference and identity but was able to see past the obvious and to think about what was best for his organization and the people it served. He was not an academic but he knew a lots about care.

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

A paper which Joan Tronto does not herself regard as a major contribution, published in Ethics and Social Welfare on what constitutes a caring institution has been very useful indeed for me and colleagues.

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

I am not an expert in this field but I think that we have used care ethics concepts in slightly different contexts – so our contribution is more about some applications than about bringing new knowledge as such.  Here are some examples:

  • Smith, J., Swartz, L., Kilian, S., & Chiliza, B.  (2013).  Mediating words, mediating worlds: Interpreting as hidden care work in a South African psychiatric institution.  Transcultural Psychiatry, 50, 493-514.  DOI: 10.1177/1363461513494993.
  • Swartz, L., & Kilian, S.  (2014).  The invisibility of informal interpreting in mental health care in South Africa: notes towards a contextual understanding.  Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 38, 700-711.  DOI 10.1007/s11013-014-9394-7.
  • Swartz, L.  (2015).  Care and the luxury of trauma: A South African story.  Palliative and Supportive Care, 13, 399-404.  doi:10.1017/S147895151400042X.
  • Swartz, L.  (2012).  Race, gender, and the impossibilities of care.  Medical Humanities, 38, 34-37. doi:10.1136/medhum-2011-010073.

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

I think we need to know much more about men as carers and also about the importance of being a carer for people who are cast as in need of care (for example, disabled people and people with serious mental disorder caring for others). The question of the impact of technology on ecologies of care in low-income contexts is also an important one.

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

I think it is crucial to understand care and interdependence as central to life, public, private and political.  The effacing of care from a range of discourses is a serious erasure.

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 or wishes yourself?

My work is very interdisciplinary and quite scattered in some ways.  I am very lucky to be learning from people who are more clearly focused on care ethics than I am, and I am grateful for this. I think the insights of this approach need to be disseminated to every discipline.  Thank you for allowing me to learn from this field.

Different perspectives on care work

2017 Carework Summit: coming together of feminist economical, political and sociological views on care work.

This June, scholars, policymakers and members of societal organizations gathered during the three-day conference 2017 Carework Summit in Lowell, Massachusetts in the United States. Together, they inquired and discussed problems in the field of Care Work – a field that focuses on researching, advocating, policymaking and institutional transformation of care work.  Inge van Nistelrooij and Merel Visse attended this conference on behalf of the Care Ethics group of Utrecht, The Netherlands. Below, we highlight two conference themes: 1) care on a global level, seen from a United Nations perspective; 2) care from a feminist economist perspective.

Care Work

But let us first explore what the field of Care work is concerned about. Most speakers strive for equality and justice in both paid and unpaid care work in all kinds of areas, like long term elderly care, child care and home-based elderly care either provided by family cares, formal carers, non-migrant and migrant carers. We noticed that the majority of the attendees have a background in sociology, political science or economy.

As care ethicists, we learned about how they perceive and conceptualize care in the context of the research field of ‘care work’. Although there seemed to be little attention for philosophical ethical views on care work, we believe care ethicists could deepen thinking about ‘what care is’ and how to inquire ‘good’ care work.

Care work on a Global Level: United Nations Programs

The keynote address of the conference by Shahra Razavi, Chief of Research & Data Section at United Nations Women, focused on numbers in care work. She is a specialist in gender dimensions of development, with a particular interest on work, social policy and care. The United Nations Program on Sustainable Development proposes an Agenda that explicitly addresses care work and the importance of gender equality.

Concurrent sessions varied from discussions on qualitative methods to research care work, to contributions by feminist economists on the benefits and costs of investing in care. At the UN, a normative framework is being developed to assess and promote care work.

A feminist economist, intersectional perspective

Nancy Folbre
Nancy Folbre

Nancy Folbre, director of the program on Gender and Care Work at Umass in Amherst, was deeply concerned about care work. Her feminist care economist perspective aims to counterbalance developments like outsourcing, offshoring, immigration and privatizing. These threaten the equal division of care work.
Collective identities and interests based on gender, race, income level shape our institutions and economic inequality. According to her, we should begin by rethinking the care paradigm by understanding the origins of patriarchical systems.

Bargaining power

“These developments have reduced the bargaining power of care workers and undermine the democratic apparatus,” according to her. Other factors that reduce bargaining power of care workers, are: the relational vulnerability of care workers (often women); the characteristics of consumers who often have a lack of agency and even if they have agency, it’s often difficult for them to access the right information; characteristics of the services themselves.

The bargaining power of care workers is not just determined by assets, information or income level, but by social norms as well. These social norms should be collectively contested and re-negotiated. Attention for an intersectional approach is crucial here, she argued. These can have risks, but can also be seen as an opportunity to create progressive alliances: e.g. create beter rules for distribtion of care work.

Focus on high power groups?

To solve problems in care, Folbre searches for how we can bargain collectively with powerful groups to reduce inequality. “We have a tendency to focus on low paid, marginalized groups. Now we need to focus on how to challenge groups with high power”. This could be interesting for us as care ethics, as we are often focused on processes of inclusion by providing marginalized groups with power.

Social spillovers

As care ethicists, we noticed that just a few of the speakers during the conference, actually spoke about what ‘care’ is. Folbre was one of them. She clarified care as ‘not just relational work’ motivated by concerns for others, not just ‘work’, but as also inclusive to financial support and other resource transfers. She stressed that care is tending to the needs of those who cannot care. Care work is not tangible.
Folbre speaks about ‘social spillovers’: “the marginal social product of care is far greater than marginal private products”. Care gives numerous contributions to human and social capital.

Soon: the global meaning of Tronto’s Caring Democracy, with a contribution by dr. Inge van Nistelrooij.

Joan Tronto

Interview with Joan Tronto, Professor of Political Science, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.

1. Where are you working at this moment?

At the University of Minnesota.

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

I’ve been writing about care ethics for about thirty years.  My current research involves thinking about care from a global perspective.

3. How did you get involved in care ethics?

Two ways.  As a feminist scholar, I kept thinking about the political cost if women decided that they should join “the mainstream of American society” in “equal partnership with men” (as the National Organization for Women’s founding document put it).  What would we lose as a society if middle-class women became just like middle-class men?

I began talking to my students about my “feminist nightmare” when women, no longer constrained by the caste barriers that had kept them out of some occupations and professions, passed the caring work in society over to poorer women and men and people of color.  So I was paying attention to care as work.

On a more philosophical level, and I am trained as a political theorist, I was part of a feminist faculty development seminar at Hunter College in 1983. When we read Carol Gilligan’s just-published book, In a Different Voice, I was struck that the care-justice distinction there seemed parallel to a different philosophical moment. I was struck by the similarity between this difference and the one between Scottish Enlightenment philosophies and Kantian ethics. This parallel led me to think more systematically about care, as Gilligan and others were describing it, and non-Kantian models of ethics.

4. How would you describe care ethics?

Care ethics is both a moral and political concept that emphasizes the centrality of care in human life.  Democracies should support democratic care.

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

Oh my gosh, there is so much to say here.
First, that ethics comes out of daily life, not in huge pronouncements of right and wrong from the sky.
Second, that one must look at all care activities from various perspectives, from the standpoint of receivers as well as givers of care.
Third, that there are not singular but plural answers to questions about what it means to care well.
Fourth that bad forms of care can deceive us into thinking unjust things are OK.

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

My most important teacher in political theory was my dissertation adviser, Sheldon Wolin, whose work on the important of theory in an age in which thought becomes increasingly dessicated remains with me everyday.

I have learned immensely from Hannah Arendt, and Simone Weil, and my dear friend Mary Dietz, who is a scholar of their thought.  Carol Gilligan, Sara Ruddick, Virginia Held, Nel Noddings, and Eva Kittay have taught me so much.

My first most important collaborator was Berenice Fisher.  It took us two years to write the essay ‘Toward a Feminist Theory of Care’, in which we defined care and discussed the first four phases of care.  Selma Sevenhuijsen was my close interlocutor for decades and raised basic questions and brought insights to the study of care that are with me everyday.

Henk Manschot taught me to think about care from the perspective of the care-receiver. Guy Widdershoven has kept me well educated about developments of care ethics in bioethics. Fiona Robinson’s application of care in international relations helps me to think more globally.  Fiona Williams’s fantastic work on social policy is so insightful. Olena Hankivsky’s way to reorganizing care was important to me, as is her critique of care from an intersectional perspective.

Truthfully, I have learned so much from my graduate students and younger colleagues, too.  Among graduate students with whom I have worked on care ethics, Dan Skinner, Jocelyn Boryczka and Vivienne Bozalek have taught me so much.  And I keep meeting scholars from whom I learn so much all the time.  I’m afraid I’ve left some people out…

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

I’ll leave my own work off this list;  Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice. I learn something new every time I re-read Ruddick’s Maternal Thinking.  Held, An Ethic of Care Kittay, Love’s Labor. Sevenhuijsen’s Citizenship and the Ethics of Care (though I like the Dutch title, “Judging with Care” better).  Dan Engster’s The Heart of Justice. Among recent books, I am fond of Stephanie Collins, The Core of Care Ethics.

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

Even though it is over twenty years old, Moral Boundaries is still worth reading in its entirety; and Caring Democracy shows what care should look like in a more democratic society.

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

In the most immediate future, there are a couple of key issues, all of which have to do with expanding the arena of care:

  1. Recognizing the connection between care and the struggles of disabled people, indigenous people, and others who are not fully included in society.
  2. Overcoming the parochialism and tribalism of the recent turn to the right in Europe, the USA, and elsewhere, which, of course, can be expressed as a care discourse.
  3. Recognizing the danger to care givers and receivers everywhere (that is, all of us) from neoliberal economic orders.
  4. Understanding how care operates to meet need differently everywhere in the world and trying to be attentive to all such forms of care.
  5. Finally, perhaps most importantly, our need to care for the earth.

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

By reorienting us towards the things that really matter.

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

There are movements growing up everywhere, to improve the conditions of care workers, to strengthen the voice and rights of disabled people, indigenous people, to stop religious persecution, to make all feel welcome. Many of my undergraduate students have become more politically aware in recent months; we can hope that this continues.

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 am an optimistic person by nature.  I hope that the Consortium can reach an international audience at both the scholarly and political level.

Earlier, in 2009 we interviewed Joan Tronto on similar topics.