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.