Merel Visse

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

1. Where are you working at this moment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. How did you get involved in care ethics?

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

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

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

4. How would you describe care ethics?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 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.


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.

Maurice Hamington

Interview with prof.dr. Maurice Hamington.

1. Where are you working at this moment?

I work at Metropolitan State University of Denver in Denver, Colorado, USA. My title is Associate Vice President of Academic Centers and Programs and I am a Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies.

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

My work with care has taken on three directions:

  1. Exploring the embodied nature of caring.
  2. Framing care as a performative endeavor.
  3. Applied aspects of care.

In Embodied Care (University of Illinois Press, 2004), I argued that human bodies facilitate caring and that our bodies contain prenoetic caring knowledge.  My most recent work, which builds on the notion of embodied care, frames care as performative and thus views care as more than an ethical theory but an ontological and epistemological theory as well.  Finally, an ongoing stream of my work has been to apply care theory to social and political policies and practices as in the anthologies, Socializing Care (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), Feminism and Hospitality (Lexington Books, 2010), and Applying Care to Business Ethics (Springer, 2011)

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

I was first exposed to the theories during the course of study leading to my first Ph.D. in Religion and Social Ethics (University of Southern California, 1994) and then the focus of my second Ph.D. in Philosophy was developing the notion of embodied care.  If find care theory a compelling way to understand identity, knowledge creation, as well as morality.

4. How would you define ethics of care?

I prefer to think of “care theory” rather than the ethics of care.  The reason is that I find care does a different kind of work than other forms of ethics.  Rather than simply answering the question, “what is the right thing to do?”, care addresses what I know and who I am as well as how to act toward one another.  I view care as possessing elements of postmodernism in that it defies neat categories of understanding.

Care is fundamentally, an embodied, performative, and imaginative endeavor that has significant implications for what we know, who we are, and the nature of the good.

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

Ethics is more than rules, rights, or consequences.  We cannot address issues of morality without integrating issues of identity and epistemology as well.

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

Nel Noddings

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

  • Dalmiya, Vrinda, “Why Should Knowers Care?” Hypatia vol. 17, no. 1 (Winter 2002)
  • Noddings, Nel, The Maternal Factor: Two Paths to Morality (University of California Press, 2010).
  • Verducci, Susan, “A Moral Method? Thoughts on Cultivating Empathy Through Method Acting” Journal of Moral Education 29:1 2000.

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


  • Hamington, Maurice and Maureen Sander-Staudt, Eds., Applying Care Ethics to Business, Issues in Business Ethics Series, Springer, September 2011.
  • Hamington, Maurice, Ed., Feminism and Hospitality: Gender in the Host/Guest Relationship, Lexington Books (a Division of Rowman & Littlefield), August 2010.
  • Hamington, Maurice, and Dorothy C. Miller, Eds., Socializing Care: Feminist Ethics and Public Issues, Rowman and Littlefield, January 2006.
  • Hamington, Maurice, Embodied Care: Jane Addams, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Feminist Ethics, University of Illinois Press, September 2004.


  • Hamington, Maurice, “Caring, Journalism, and the Power of Particularism,” Expositions: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities, Fall 2011.
  • Hamington, Maurice, “Care Ethics and Corporeal Inquiry in Patient Relations,” International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics 5:1 (Spring 2012): 52-69.
  • Hamington, Maurice, “Liberté, Égalité, Sororité: How Care Ethics Informs Social Justice,” Social Philosophy Today, 26:1, 2011.
  • Hamington, Maurice, “Care Ethics, John Dewey’s ‘Dramatic Rehearsal’ and Moral Education,” Philosophy of Education Yearbook 2010.  Spring 2011.
  • Hamington, Maurice, “The Will to Care: Performance, Expectation, and Imagination,” Hypatia, 25:3, Summer 2010.
  • Hamington, Maurice, “Toward a Theory of Feminist Hospitality,” Feminist Formations (formerly National Women’s Studies Association Journal), 22:1, April 2010.
  • Hamington, Maurice, “Business is Not a Game: The Metaphoric Fallacy,” Journal of Business Ethics, 86:4, 2009.
  • Hamington, Maurice, “Learning Ethics from Our Relationships with Animals: Moral Imagination,” International Journal of Applied Ethics, 22:2, Fall 2008.
  • Hamington, Maurice, “Care Ethics and International Justice: The Cosmopolitanism of Jane Addams and Kwame Anthony Appiah,” Social Philosophy Today, 23, 2008.
  • Hamington, Maurice, “Touching the Other in Myself: Merleau-Ponty, Tactility, and Care Ethics,” Review Journal of Political Philosophy, 4:1, 2006.
  • Hamington, Maurice, “Jane Addams and the Politics of Embodied Care,” Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 15:2, Fall 2001.

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

Care theory needs to be more than an academic pursuit.  It is gaining popularity but only among some academics.  Care needs to be a social and political value that helps repair our world.  Traditional Western approaches to ethics are inadequate to address the challenges of our diverse social existence.

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

I wish to be supportive. Your mission is much needed and I would like to see it be successful.