Maurice Hamington

Interview with Maurice Hamington, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, USA.

1. Where are you working at this moment?

I work at Portland State University where I am a Professor of Philosophy and the Executive Director of University Studies which is an interdisciplinary integrated undergraduate general education curriculum. Our community of 50 full time faculty, hundreds of part-time faculty, and 100 peer mentors emphasize inclusion and justice in a caring culture for ourselves and the students we work with.

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

I am a feminist ethicist who addresses both theoretical and applied elements of care ethics.  In particular, I have emphasized the embodied and performative aspects of care in contending that care ethics is more than a normative theory of morality.  For me, care has ontological and epistemological dimensions in addition to its ethical significance.

In terms of books, I most recently co-edited the volume Care Ethics and Political Theory with Dan Engster (Oxford 2015).  In 2017, I have published articles on care ethics and design thinking (Journal of Business Ethics) as well as on care ethics and haiku (Juxtapositions: The Journal of Haiku Research and Scholarship with Ce Rosenow).
Also in 2017, I have contributed chapters on care ethics to Compassionate Migration and Regional Policy. Steven W. Bender and William Arrocha, eds. (Palgrave Macmillan), Evaluation for A Caring Society, Merel Visse and Tineke Abma, eds. (Information Age Publishing, Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Empathy, Heidi Maibom, ed., (Routledge), and Pets and People, Christine Overall, ed. (Oxford University Press).

As one can see, my research interests are quite varied.  At this time, I am working on chapters on care ethics and phenomenology as well as care ethics and performance.  I will be editing a special issue of the International Journal of Care and Caring on care ethics.

3. How did you get involved in care ethics?

I was introduced to care ethics in a graduate feminist theory course.  I was attracted to the idea from my first exposure.  I can remember where I was when in the early 1990’s I first read Nel Noddings’ Caring. I wrote my philosophy Ph.D. dissertation on care ethics and embodiment.

4. How would you describe care ethics?

Care ethics is a relational approach to morality that emphasizes understanding the context of others to better deliver responsive care. More than a normative ethical theory, care ethics has ontological and epistemological dimensions. It is founded in a relational ontology and human corporeal existence.  Rather than abstract rules or rights, all care recenters ethics on our humanity and its fundamental relational existence.
Furthermore, all care originates and is experienced through the body. In this manner, I have argued that care can be described as a performance, the iterations of which can develop skill, habits, and sense of identity.

people in conversation
Listening and exchange are necessary for care

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

I have learned so much from exploring care ethics that I could respond to this question in many ways.
One response is in regard to how important listening is to care.  Authentic and active listening is a skill of inquiry that is crucial for effective care. Without listening, caring actions are undertaken without complete understanding of context and are more likely to be ineffective and off the mark. Listening is not given much attention in ethical theorizing but it is hard to imagine caring without the attentiveness of listening.

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

I have had the good fortune of working with a number of outstanding care theorists including Nel Noddings, Joan Tronto, Fiona Robinson, Dan Engster and Michael Slote on various publications. Care is such a rich field of exploration that I find all of these scholars and their unique approach to care ethics as contributing to my understanding of care. I am particularly attracted to theorists who view care ethics as something more than an alternative way to adjudicate ethical dilemmas. Although care has important normative implications, it is much more than just another ethical theory.

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

This was an easier question to answer twenty years ago than it is today given the burgeoning number of publications in this area. For me, foundational texts include Nel Noddings, Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education (1984); Joan Tronto, Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for An Ethic of Care (1993); and, Fiona Robinson, The Ethics of Care and Global Politics (1999).  Each of these authors has sharpened their arguments about care in subsequent books. The number of care authors that I am interested in has grown tremendously in recent years including the works of Daniel Engster, Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, Elena Pucini, and Vrinda Dalmiya.

Given my interest in the performativity of care, I am interested in seeing where James Thompson takes the notion of care and aesthetics after his article, “Towards An Aesthetics of Care” Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance (2015). This is a very generative time in care ethics and I look forward to seeing what new insights will emerge.

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

Although it is a bit dated now, Embodied Care (2004) lays out an understanding of care ethics grounded in embodiment.
“Care Ethics and Confronting Intersectional Difference through the Body,” in Critical Philosophy of Race 3:1 (2015) is an article that endeavors to apply the embodied care framework to issues of race.
“Knowledge, Competence and Care” in Merel Visse and Tineke Abma, eds., Evaluation for A Caring Society. Information Age Publishing, 2017 is a chapter that addresses issues of both epistemology and the effectiveness of care.

Given the range of applications and theoretical concepts I have endeavored to address, I recommend checking out my works at Adacemia.edu and seeing if there are subjects of interest.

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

Care ethics is no longer a boutique theory of a few people in one or two disciplines. It has garnered world-wide attention across many fields. As such, theorists are framing care within their own discipline or branch of discipline. Although the widespread interest is exciting, it also means that many scholars are endeavoring to describe care in definitive ways.
I worry that care will lose its critical and postmodern edge if it is boxed into certain theoretical constraints. So, I think an important issue for care ethics is how its definition evolves as it moves into mainstream academic discussions.[pullquote]How will care ethics make its way into narratives outside of academia?[/pullquote]

Another, major issue is how will care ethics make its way into narratives outside of academia. Today, care ethics is almost exclusively an intellectual narrative. To make a significant difference in the world, scholars will need to translate care into accessible discourse for a wider audience.

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

The potential of care ethics to positively impact the world is enormous. Deep authentic care is a product of inquiry in an attempt to really understand the other. If societies and their leaders and institutions adopted this approach as their guiding moral framework then there would be less stereotyping and scapegoating of groups of people.

We could learn from our differences and build stronger communities committed to the welfare of all members. Care can be a grassroots revolution that leads policy change as societies adopt a disposition of understanding rather than fear of difference. Ultimately, violent action would be seen as more of a last resort than it is today.

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

One of the challenges of this question is definitional. Care is a ubiquitous term. There are many institutions, including for-profit corporations, that have placed care as their central theme, such as in the field of health care.  However,” care ethics” has a more precise understanding as a relational moral approach responsive to the contexts of individuals.

I am only aware of a few institutions that have taken care ethics seriously in their work. The University of Humanistic Studies and its graduate programs in care ethics headed by Carlo Leget is one of those institutions. Another is the care ethics laboratory in Belgium, sTimul. I am hoping that the efforts of the new The International Journal of Care and Caring is a sign that more such research efforts grounded in care ethics will emerge.

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 humbled and honored to participate in the consortium. There are many possibilities for collaborative projects to emerge from such a gathering. Perhaps one recommendation is that the group consider the possibility of public scholarship projects. In other words, are their means by which this important care ethics scholarship might be translated for public consumption so as to infuse care ethics language and thinking into social narratives rather than just academic discourse.

More

Featured article: The sensible health care professional

Recently, two Dutch and one Belgium care ethicist published a paper on “The sensible health care professional: a care ethical perspective on the role of caregivers in emotionally turbulent practices” in Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy.

Are you working in the field of care ethics and would you like your paper to be in the spotlight? Please let us know!

Abstract

Vivianne Baur, Inge van Nistelrooij and Linus Vanlaere discuss the challenging context that health care professionals are confronted with, and the impact of this context on their emotional experiences.

Care ethics considers emotions as a valuable source of knowledge for good care. Thinking with care ethical theory and looking through a care ethical lens at a practical case example, the authors discern reflective questions that

  1. shed light on a care ethical approach toward the role of emotions in care practices, and
  2. may be used by practitioners and facilitators for care ethical reflection on similar cases, in the particular and concrete context where issues around emotional experiences arise.

The authors emphasize the importance of allowing emotions to exist, to acknowledge them and to not repress them, so that they can serve as a vehicle for ethical behavior in care practices. They stress the difference between acknowledging emotions and expressing them limitlessly.

Formational practices and transformational research practices are being proposed to create moral space in care institutions and to support health care professionals to approach the emotionally turbulent practices they encounter in a way that contributes to good care for all those involved.

Coming up: Dutch care ethicists’ exchange with Danish scholars

This June, care ethicists Carlo Leget, Alistair Niemeijer and Merel Visse of the Dutch care ethicist group visit Aalborg University and Roskilde University in Denmark to exchange thoughts on two important research approaches to understand care: phenomenology and relational etnography.

In Aalborg they will speak with Finn Hansen at Aarhus University, well-known for his Wonder Labs and practical approach to phenomenology. Finn Hansen and Carlo Leget have been collaborating for some time. Last year, Finn visited the Graduate School of the University of Humanistic Studies to speak about Practising Philosophy and Wondering. His approach to phenomenology is unique and important to the Dutch care ethicists, as it provides an epistemological framework and empircal approach to understand lived experiences of people with care.

At the Roskilde University, they will meet again with Christina Hee Pedersen, Lisbeth Frølunde and Louise Jane Phillips of the Department of Communication and Arts. Alistair Niemeijer and Merel Visse met with these scholars several times before at methodological conferences, like the International and European Conference on Qualitative Inquiry. At the time, they exchanged about a new approach they have been developing on relational etnography as a praxis for care and autoetnography in relation to humane care. Now, this June, they will dive deeper into the challenges and promises of this approach, and explore the possibilities of arts-based work like visual etnography. Please check this website again in July for an update.

More information on these connections:

Institute for Communication, Aalborg University:
Finn Hansen

Roskilde University,The Department of Communication and Arts:
Christina Hee Pedersen
Louise Jane Phillips
Lisbeth Frølunde

Late modern uncertainty and beyond demarcation

This week, two new papers of Dutch care ethicists have been accepted and published in peer-reviewed journals.

Rethinking

Frans Vosman and Alistair Niemeijer published their paper on ‘Rethinking critical reflection on care: late modern uncertainty and the implications for care ethics’ in Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy ((Vosman, F. & Niemeijer, A. Med Health Care and Philos (2017). doi: 10.1007/s11019-017-9766-1)). In their paper, Vosman and Niemeijer rethink care ethics through complexity and precariousness.

Late modern organizations, like the general hospital, codetermined by various (control, information, safety, account ability) systems are characterized by complexity and the need for complexity reduction, both permeating care practices.

By means of a heuristic use of the concept of precariousness, taken as the installment of uncertainty, it is shown that relations and power in late modern care organizations have changed, precluding the use of a straightforward domination idea of power.

A proposition is made how to rethink the care ethical inquiry in order to take late modern circumstances into account: inquiry should always be related to the concerns of people and practitioners from within care practices.

Abstract

Care ethics as initiated by Gilligan, Held, Tronto and others (in the nineteen eighties and nineties) has from its onset been critical towards ethical concepts established in modernity, like ‘autonomy’, alternatively proposing to think from within relationships and to pay attention to power. In this article the question is raised whether renewal in this same critical vein is necessary and possible as late modern circumstances require rethinking the care ethical inquiry. Two late modern realities that invite to rethink care ethics are complexity and precariousness. Read more >>

Beyond demarcation

The newest paper on ‘Care ethics as an interdisciplinary field of inquiry’ of Carlo Leget, Inge van Nistelrooij and Merel Visse has been accepted for publication by Nursing Ethics and will appear soon. This paper is a contribution to the ongoing discussion about the status and nature of care ethics. 

Responding to ‘Demarcation of the ethics of care as a discipline’ by Klaver et al. (2014)((Klaver, K., Elst, E. van, Baart, A. Nursing Ethics, Vol. 21-7, 755-765 (2014). doi: 10.1177/0969733013500162)) and ‘Three versions of an ethics of care’ by Edwards (2009)((Edwards, S. Nursing Philosophy, Vol.10-4, 231-240 (2009). doi: 10.1111/j.1466-769X.2009.00415.x)), Leget et al. propose to conceive care ethics as an interdisciplinary field of inquiry, incorporating a dialectical relation between empirical research and theoretical reflection.

Departing from the notion of caring as a practice of contributing to a life sustaining web, they argue that care ethics can only profit from a loosely organised academic profile that allows for flexibility and critical attitude that brings us close to the good emerging in specific practices.

This asks for ways of searching for a common focus and interest that is inherently democratic and dialogical, and thus beyond demarcation​.

Please check the website of Nursing Ethics or email the authors via info@care-ethics.org.

Abstract

For many years the body of literature known as ‘care ethics’ or ‘ethics of care’ has been discussed as regards its status and nature. There is much confusion and little structured discussion. The paper of Klaver et al. (2014) was written as a discussion article to which we respond.

We propose to conceive care ethics as an interdisciplinary field of inquiry, incorporating a dialectical relation between empirical research and theoretical reflection. Departing from the notion of caring as a practice of contributing to a life-sustaining web, we argue that care ethics can only profit from a loosely organized academic profile that allows for flexibility and critical attitude that brings us close to the good emerging in specific practices. This asks for ways of searching for a common focus and interest that is inherently democratic and dialogical and thus beyond demarcation. Read more >>

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Art of Living, Art of Dying

Spring 2017 a new book by Carlo Leget was published, Art of Living, Art of Dying. Spiritual Care for a Good Death, by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in London/Philadelphia. Care-ethics.org had an interview with the author.

A new book about spiritual care, why did you write it?

For some time I had been thinking that it would be good to publish a book on the art of dying in English. The two Dutch books that I had written, Ruimte om te sterven and Van levenskunst tot stervenskunst, have been reprinted many times and every time when I was giving a lecture abroad people would be very interested to read them.
Last year I gave a lecture in San Diego at the annual conference of the Health Care Chaplaincy Network, and a Publisher came to me offering to make a book with me. This is when I took my chance.

When does a professor find the time to write a book nowadays?

Last summer I spent some time in Germany and I had given myself 4 weeks. I had already thought out what I wanted to write. Every morning I stood up early, searched for a spark of enthusiasm in myself about the subject I wanted to write about, and when I had reached 3000 words, I would stop. That should be enough for that day.

“Expertly grounded in an academic theological and philosophical discourse, Professor Leget guides the reader through a contemporary reading of the medieval Ars moriendi, blending the wisdom of the past with a real-world understanding of the present.” ~ Philip Larkin

Did you succeed in writing down everything in such a short period of time?

No, I didn’t. When I was writing the last chapters my brother-in-law called me from the Netherlands. My eldest sister appeared to have come back from her holiday in a very bad condition. She had been admitted to the hospital immediately and she died a week after her return in the Neterhlands, 50 years old.
I travelled back to the Netherlands and I was lucky to be able to say goodbye to her. It was hardly conceivable what had happened. Suddenly I was painfully cast from theory into practice. There are no words for how bizarre this was. The world stood still. From that moment on also my writing had been interrupted for a while.

Did what happened have any impact on the content of your book?

When I began to write again after a couple of weeks, I was afraid that I would look with new eyes at everything I had written so far, and that it would no longer be in tune with my feelings. This appeared not to be so, luckily. I could still agree with what I had written. At that moment I knew that I would dedicate the book to her.

You have written two books about the art of dying already. Is there for the people who are familiar with your previous work anything new to discover in this English book?

Yes, definitely. The first version of my book Ruimte om te sterven was written almost 15 years ago. Since then my thought has developed further and care ethics has had a great influence on the way I look at the world. But also the many lectures and presentations on the art of dying, and the many contacts with care givers of various disciplines have changed my way of thinking. I have learned to think in a more concrete and practical way. At the same time I remain someone who loves to analyze and think theoretically.

Can you give concrete examples of what is new in this book?

The book is crafted better and the development of thought is done more thoroughly. Also the idea of inner polyphony has been developed further. I call this the ‘polyphonic self’. For this I was inspired by the work of Gettie Kievit-Lamens, who has been chaplain at academic hospice Demeter in De Bilt, The Netherlands, and who wrote a dissertation in which she brings my central metaphor of ‘inner space’ in resonance with the work of Hubert Hermans on the ‘dialogical self’.

But also the work of my PhD-students Eric Olsman and Els van Wijngaarden have put me on this track. Finally, things that have happened in my own biography these past few years have confronted me with the importance of listening to this inner polyphony.

Does this mean that the new book is more complex than the previous ones?

I don’t think so in the end. I have tried to keep the balance between simplicity and complexity by creating space for this complexity on the one hand, but keeping complex issues accessible and concrete on the other. In this way I have summarized the core of the art of dying in five essential questions that every human being could ask him- or herself sooner or later.

“I recommend this book not only for chaplains and clergy, but also for others on the healthcare team, including counsellors, doctors, nurses, allied healthcare workers and other professionals who come into contact with patients in hospitals and hospices.” ~ Christina Puchalski

What adds this book to all that has already been written about spirituality in palliative care?

I think my approach is one of the few that considers the art of dying as a practice that is shaped by the people involved in their interaction, and that in the end it is the art of the one who is dying. Much literature aims to put the severely ill or dying person at the centre, but ends with writing what care givers can or should do. Moreover I have tried to not tell people what is wrong and what is right, aiming to open up a space that enables one to listen what really matters in life.

Finally: how is this book related to the rest of your scientific work?

The book has helped me to retrieve a number of central thoughts, thinking them through and articulating them better. It is part of the theoretical framework of a research project funded by the government that I am going to do in collaboration with Saskia Teunissen, professor in hospice care at Utrecht University. Next to this I have further plans  for the next round of the state funded ZonMW programme Palliantie. But this summer I will take four weeks of vacation.

Carlo Leget

Carlo LegetChair holder, full professor in Ethics of Care and Spiritual Counseling and extraordinary professor Palliative Care at the University of Humanistic Studies.

His academic works focuses on ethics and spirituality in palliative care, and he is involved in many discussions in the Netherlands about end-of-life issues. He wrote, edited or co-edited 20 books and published more than 50 refereed papers and more than 40 contributions to books. He is in the editorial board of a number of international and Dutch journals.

He chairs the national working group on ‘Ethics and spiritual care’ in his country and is first author of the first national consensus based guideline on spiritual care in palliative care (2010). He also co-chairs the EAPC-Taskforce on spiritual care, is a board member of Palliactief, the Dutch Association for Professional Palliative Care. He takes also part in the Global Network on Spirituality and Health.

Older people on self-chosen death

Caught between intending and doing: older people ideating on a self-chosen death

Els van Wijngaarden, Carlo Leget and Anne Goossensen (( University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht, Netherlands))

Abstract

Objectives
The aim of this paper is to provide insight into what it means to live with the intention to end life at a self-chosen moment from an insider perspective.

Setting
Participants who lived independent or semidependent throughout the Netherlands.

Participants
25 Dutch older citizens (mean age of 82 years) participated. They were ideating on a self- chosen death because they considered their lives to be no longer worth living.
Inclusion criteria were that they:

  1. considered their lives to be ‘completed’;
  2. suffered from the prospect of living on;
  3. currently wished to die;
  4. were 70 years of age or older;
  5. were not terminally ill;
  6. considered themselves to be mentally competent;
  7. considered their death wish reasonable.

Design
In this qualitative study, in-depth interviews were carried out in the participants’ everyday home environment (median lasting 1.56 h). Verbatim transcripts were analysed based on the principles of phenomenological thematic analysis.

Results
The liminality or ‘in-betweenness’ of intending and actually performing self-directed death (or not) is characterised as a constant feeling of being torn explicated by the following pairs of themes:[pullquote]”I don’t want to die, but my life is simply unliveable.” [/pullquote]

  1. detachment and attachment;
  2. rational and nonrational considerations;
  3. taking control and lingering uncertainty;
  4. resisting interference and longing for support;
  5. legitimacy and illegitimacy.

Conclusions
Our findings show that the in-between period emerges as a considerable, existential challenge with both rational and non-rational concerns and thoughts, rather than a calculative, coherent sum of rational considerations. Our study highlights the need to take due consideration of all ambiguities and ambivalences present after a putatively rational decision has been made in order to develop careful policy and support for this particular group of older people

Strengths and limitations of this study

  • This study gives voice to older people who wish to die — preferably with medical assistance —
    although they do not suffer from a lifethreatening disease or a psychiatric disorder.
  • This study is the first to elucidate what it means to live in-between intending and actually per-
    forming a self-chosen act leading to death (or not).
  • This study introduces empirical evidence into the largely theoretical debate on rational suicide.
  • Our study highlights the need for due consideration of all ambiguities and ambivalences present after a putatively rational decision has been made, in order to develop careful policy and support for this particular group of older people.
  • Although transferability to other countries is limited due to cultural differences, the Dutch discussion
    may inform the debate on (legalisation of ) assisted dying in other Western countries.

Article:

  • van Wijngaarden E, Leget C, Goossensen A. Caught between intending and doing: older people ideating on a self-chosen death. BMJ Open 2016;6:e009895. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009895

Photo credit: Simon & His Camera Life Is But A Walking Shadow – Syon Park London by Simon & His Camera via photopin (license)

Ready to give up on life

The lived experience of elderly people who feel life is completed and no longer worth living.

Els van Wijngaarden, Carlo Leget and Anne Goossensen ((University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht, Netherlands))

In the Netherlands, there has been much political and public debate on the question whether elderly people, who are tired of life and who consider their life to be completed, should have legal options to ask for assisted dying.
So far there has been little research into the experiences of these elderly people. In order to develop deliberate policy and care that targets this group of elderly people, it is necessary to understand their lifeworld.
The aim of the research by dr. Els van Wijngaarden is to describe the phenomenon ‘life is completed and no longer worth living’ from a lifeworld perspective, as it is lived and experienced by elderly people.

Reflective lifeworld research design

Between April to December 2013, we conducted 25 in-depth interviews. A reflective lifeworld research design, drawing on the phenomenological tradition, was used during the data gathering and data analysis.

The essential meaning of the phenomenon is understood as ‘a tangle of inability and unwillingness to connect to one’s actual life’, characterized by a permanently lived tension: daily experiences seem incompatible with people’s expectations of life and their idea of whom they are.[pullquote]“Deep inside, you are very much alone. Totally, totally alone”[/pullquote]

While feeling more and more disconnected to life, a yearning desire to end life is strengthened. The experience is further explicated in its five constituents:

  1. a sense of aching loneliness;
  2. the pain of not mattering;
  3. the inability to express oneself;
  4. multidimensional tiredness; and
  5. a sense of aversion towards feared dependence.

This article provides evocative and empathic lifeworld descriptions contributing to a deeper understanding of these elderly people and raises questions about a close association between death wishes and depression in this sample.

E. van Wijngaarden et al. / Social Science & Medicine 138 (2015) 257e264.
Doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.05.015

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Utrecht Care Ethics

Care ethics is an interdisciplinary field of inquiry, which is driven by societal questions. Since the beginning of the 1980s, in this field various movements and disciplines have an interdisciplinary conversation, among which philosophy, ethics, social sciences, political and policy sciences, and nursing sciences.

The contribution made by the research group at the University of Humanistic Studies is a specific form of ethics. The key question of the Utrecht Care Ethics is: What is good care, given this particular situation? In order to answer this question we use a theoretical framework, which functions as a multifocal interpretative lens.

Theoretical framework

The theoretical framework is built around the concept of care, which is broadly understood. Caring is primarily seen as a social and political practice. This means that people continuously attune to others and themselves, in professional settings or otherwise, and always in an organised society. People ‘attune’ in order to maintain, continue, and repair our ‘world’ so that they can live in it as well as possible. In practices the morally good can emerge and be experienced by those involved. In this process those who receive care play a crucial role.

The theoretical framework, built around the concept of care, is fed by two sources. On the one hand, the interdisciplinary discussions known as ethics of care, which run for more than thirty years now, and various forms of empirical research on the other.

Conceptual and empirical research

These two sources, conceptual and empirical research, are in a dialectical relation to each other. Conceptual and theoretical insights are being questioned and enriched by empirical research and vice versa. In other words: we have a normatively loaded care ethical theory that is simultaneously used as a theoretical framework and as a hypothesis that is tested and adapted on the basis of empirical research and theoretical reflection.[pullquote]What is good care, given this particular situation?[/pullquote]

Within the theoretical framework a number of developed concepts (‘critical insights’) are guiding, such as relationality, contextuality, affectivity, practices, vulnerability, bodiliness, attention to power and position, and meaning.

Methodological toolkit

The empirical research methods used in Care Ethics at the University of Humanistic Studies focus on lived experiences, practices of care, and the way society is organised (the political-ethical dimension). The methodological toolkit, which is used and developed further for this goal, contains the following methods: phenomenology, narrative analysis, discourse analysis, institutional and auto-ethnography, visual data-analysis, and responsive evaluation.

Epistemological position

Summarizing: the theoretical framework, drawing upon the above mentioned ‘critical insights’, directs the empirical research approaches towards the lived experiences of those who are involved in caring practices, on these practices as such and/or their political context. In this way(s) insights are gained about the morally good that emerges here.

Thus, the epistemological position of the Care Ethics research group can be described as expressive-collaborative and embodied. We only get access to the good when we relate different positions, perspectives and types of knowledge to each other, by being in dialogue and using participatory types of research.

CERC Launch

Joan Tronto and Carlo Leget launch Care Ethics Research Consortium (CERC)

Prof. Tronto is one of care ethics’ pioneers and an internationally recognized political theorist; Prof. Leget is chair of the Dutch Care Ethics group at the University of Humanistic Studies (UHS) in the Netherlands, the place where a Master in Care Ethics is being taught. Tronto presently holds a honorary doctorate at this university. Springing from this collaboration, the consortium will be based at the University of Humanistic Studies. Furthermore, the consortium will build on the European network of care ethical scholars that has been developed over the past few years.[pullquote]We do it in a care ethical way: we build the consortium from what there is already, building upon existing relations. – Carlo Leget[/pullquote]

Up to date, there is no consortium in the world that aims to connect scholars who work in the field of the ethics of care and care theory. Therefore, this venture is seen as a potentially valuable contribution to the field of research in the ethics of care worldwide. The initiators aim for a close collaboration with other parties (also non-European) as to ensure shared ownership and commitment.

The International Care Ethical Research Consortium is envisioned to function as an epicenter where scientists from a rich variety of continents (Europe, North-America, Africa, Asia) meet each other. As such, the consortium can be seen as a:

  • Clearing house: where ideas and research projects or publications are negotiated and carried out;
  • Meeting space: to freely explore and connect emerging insights with colleagues during conferences and shared publications or to explore possibilities for visiting scholarships;
  • Knowledge platform: to systematically gather, connect and share critical insights with each other, students, the world.[pullquote]There are a lot of possibilities, so this is an invitation to you.- Joan Tronto[/pullquote]

Care ethical scholars who are interested to join the International Care Ethical Research Consortium can contact Prof. Joan Tronto (jctronto@umn.edu), Prof. dr. Carlo Leget (c.leget@uvh.nl) , Dr. Inge van Nistelrooij (i.vannistelrooij@uvh.nl), and/or Dr. Merel Visse (merel.visse@uvh.nl).

Who cares? Caring with technology

‘Who?’, put short and simple, sounds rather banal, but has turned out to be a missing question in current debates about future perspectives of care arrangements in Germany for the („more and more demented“) elderly. Who cares for whom – concretely, day to day with attention and competence since we are facing a huge care gap from the side of the care-givers: While the number of future care-receivers is doubling, the amount of potential care-givers is declining (Klie 2014; Kohlen 2010).

Over the last couple of months I have been observing a discourse in politics and academia in Germany that shows an excitement about technological advancement in home care and which is supposed to secure the elderly in their home despite certain diagnostic signs and self-perceptions of frailty. Nevertheless, as studies have revealed (see especially Alistair Niemeijer 2015, Jeannette Pols 2012) the use of technology is arranged and continuously re-arranged by somebody.

Home Care

In home care, the cyclic process of integrating technology is mostly done by nurses who keep an eye on how patients handle the self-made measurements on their body and do the interpretation. In her ethnographic studies, Jeannette Pols (2012) shows how nurses and patients re-shape care when they start using telecare devices. Actual care practices employing surveillance technology do not resemble the hopes of the industry and policy makers. Surveillance technology cannot substitute care practitioners and it is not known whether there will be new challenges including pressing ethical questions facing “good” practices as we can learn from Alistair Niemeijer’s study (2015).

Last week after my lecture on Ethics, care and gender, students handed in their essays about the topic. While reading the essays over the last days I realized that the question “who is taking care of whom in the future?” was something they have not come across before. One student put it like this: “In order to prepare the future of home care we need to consider different structural formats, that is to say, what are possible arrangements; and who is supposed and willing to do the care work” (Theresa Wied).

Women

Right now, we know: Not only the care-receivers are mostly women, but also the care-givers. In home-care as well as in the elderly homes, two out of three carers are women. Among the care-givers who do informal care – without support from professional care practitioners – are more than 70% female and less than 30% male. Professional home care is done nearly only by female nurses (90%) and the numbers are closely the same when we look at the female care givers in nursing homes (Schneekloth 2006, Kohlen 2010).

One concluding thought: to engage with current scholarly work as well as political statements by policy makers on care and technology is to enter different discussions and see how is dealt with the who- questions. “Thinking from women’s lives” (Harding 1991) in which care often occupies an important place through the life span might be a fruitful idea.

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