Flávia Biroli

Interview with Flávia Biroli, Institute of Political Science, University of Brasília, Brasília, Brazil

1. Where are you working at this moment?

I am a professor at the University of Brasília, Institute of Political Science, since 2005.

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

My focus is on the social organization of care and its impact on women and democracy. Gender inequalities are connected to women`s poor access to fundamental resources, such as time and income. I am interested in developing theoretical analysis on care and democracy, empirically informed by Brazilian and Latin-American contexts.

I also develop empirical research on conservative reactions to gender and women’s rights in Brazil and Latin America, which have at least two fronts: direct attacks against “gender perspective” in Law and Public Policy; deconstruction of legal guarantees for work and the social security system. In both cases, the “defense of the family” has been key to conservative public discourse, while gendered aspects of work are not being considered and the effective possibilities for care and gender equality are being dismantled.
Poor and black women are the most affected. There is a racial component in the social organization of care in Brazil, thus the importance of intersectional approaches.

3. How did you get involved in care ethics?

My researches on gender, politics and democracy have been first focused on women’s under-representation in Brazilian institutional politics, in formal arenas of political representation. Developing empirical analysis about women and politics in Brazil from 2003, I started my dialogue with authors and approaches in Political Feminist Theories, focusing on social barriers for individual and collective autonomy. Issues concerning the voicing of women’s experiences and their social position, as well as the social organization of care, became inescapable in my analysis.

4. How would you describe care ethics?

A human and relational perspective on politics and everyday life, leading to alternative conceptions of justice within the frame of democratic critique. An alternative to the logic of commodification.[pullquote]Caring relationships are part of people’s daily lives and a factor generating inequalities in democracies.[/pullquote]

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

A theoretical and methodological perspective informed by women’s experiences and social position.

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

I will mention some of the authors from which I have learned and still learn: Carol Gilligan, Joan Tronto, Helena Hirata, Pascale Molinier, Patricia Hill-Collins. I agree and identify with care theories and approaches concerned about privileges and inequalities, focused on the connections between every day experiences, the social organization of care, and democracy.

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

I would highlight my books on feminist theory and autonomy, such as Autonomia e desigualdades de gênero (Eduff, 2013) and Feminismo e Política (Boitempo, 2014, with Luis Felipe Miguel), and on changes in family structure and organization in Brazil, Família: novos conceitos (Perseu Abramo, 2014). I would also mention two recent articles:  The Sexual Division of Labor and Democracy (2016) and another on care, justice, and democracy: Responsibilities, care and democracy (2015). Most of my work has been published in Portuguese.

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

The crisis of care and the contradictions between capitalism and care, as Nancy Fraser has put it in recent texts and interviews.

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

Developing analysis of the significance of care in everyday life in different national and social contexts and the effects of different social organization patterns of care on people’s lives and democracy. Amplifying the understanding of care as social critique and social ethics, offering alternatives to the commodification of life.

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

Recent projects brought together Brazilian and French sociologists. In Brazil, University of São Paulo and Instituto Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia para Estudos da Metrópole (INCT-CEM) organized an event on care and care workers in 2010, that produced a book. Later, a project on gender and work in Brazil and France also produced an event and a book has recently been published.

In Brazil, there are current researches on care in bioethics, psychology, collective health. President Dilma Rousseff was deposed. The area of Political Science in Brazil is poor in studies and reflections on care. As one of the editors of Revista Brasileira de Ciência Política from 2008 and 2016, I organized a thematic issue on Care in 2015, but it is still an exotic theme for political scientists in Brazil.

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 wish the consortium could help us to build productive collaboration and develop theoretical and empirical researches facing the challenges for a politics of care (a caring democracy, to quote Joan Tronto), for a social ethics of care, in the actual stage of capitalism. Care and gender equality are being affected in different manners, in different parts of the world. I think comparative research and collective efforts to develop theories well informed by diverse experiences and social data are more than welcome and necessary.

Eleonor Faur

Interview with Eleonor Faur, IDAES-National University of San Martín, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

1. Where are you working at this moment?

I am a Professor at the Institute for Higher Studies on Social Sciences, National University of San Martín. Buenos Aires, Argentina.  I teach graduated courses on Gender and Care Policies, and on Gender Relations and Welfare in Latin America.

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

My PhD focused on Childcare Policies and Gender Inequalities in Argentina. In addition, I participated in a Global UNRISD Project called “The Political and Social Economy of Care”, and I developed some qualitative, quantitative and institutional research on care relations, gender and social inequalities. The key argument I developed was that Argentina’s social policies themselves are reproducing gender inequalities (assigning the care workload mainly to women) and class inequalities among families (by making different kinds, and qualities, of care services available targeted at different social groups, instead of promoting genuinely ‘equal rights’ for all of them) (Faur, 2009, 2011, 2014).
For this reason, I refer to these arrangements in terms of a political and social organization of care, one which is constantly developing through the interventions of public and private offerings, and which has different shapes and outcomes across social class.

Although I did not explicitly analyze care and social policies arrangements from a `care ethics approach`, my interest on how much inequality are societies capable to support deserves further exploration from an ethical perspective, which I shall be doing in the future.

Lastly, I began to think about grass-root women’s activism in response to gender violence and feminicides as a development of a “popular care ethics”. That is, an ethics that is constructed through collective action in the public sphere, recreating feminist practice as a way to take care of the youngest and their rights. (See Revista Anfibia).

3. How did you get involved in care ethics?

I got involved in care ethics due to my work on gender and human rights issues.

3. How would you describe care ethics?

Care ethics is about interdependency and empathy as dispositions to giving and receiving attention, affection, and support. It is also about getting basic need satisfied. Care ethics may be considered also as a paradigm shift in the study of welfare.

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

The most important think I learned from care ethics was to shape a philosophical approach to analyze daily social relations and public policies, from a human dimension.

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

My closer teachers were Elizabeth Jelin, Rosalía Cortés and Shahra Razavi. My colleagues Luz Gabriela Arango and Valeria Esquivel. And many authors that I read.

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

Joan Tronto’s Moral Boundaries and Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice, are the most important to me, as a breakthrough in this concept.

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

  • My book: El cuidado infantil en el siglo XXI. Mujeres malabaristas en una sociedad desigual. (2014(Childcare in 21st.Century. Juggler Women in an Inequal Society.)
  • My article “A Widening Gap? The Political and Social Economy of Care”, in Development & Change (2011).

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

First, it shall be important to reinforce the analysis on national and socioeconomical contexts in care relations, maybe through the development of comparative studies. Second, to identify how care develops in different scales and spheres. Third, to legitimize as a special “lens” to analyze, design and evaluate public policies.

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

I think that care ethics may contribute in at least three ways. On the one hand, it is key to reinforce social bond and empathy on an equality basis. On the other, it could be considered as a lens to the design of public policies and thus contribute to reach the poorest population. Lastly, it may contribute by making economy sustainable. All of them are key to produce and maintain welfare.

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

In Latin America, Uruguay has developed a National Integrated System on Care, which is considered as a pillar of social protection. Chile and Colombia are also working on this direction. Local communities in Argentina are more and more interested in care issues and developing programmes aimed to child and aging population care services, which are dramatically insufficient for the time being.

11. 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 we can come out with an agenda for this consortium, that includes interregional research collaborations and projects to expand this approach internationally.

Tula Brannelly

Interview with Tula Brannelly, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand.

1. Where are you working at this moment?

I currently work at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand in the School of Nursing. I have been at Massey since I emigrated from the UK in 2006. Previously I worked at the University of Birmingham, as a Research Fellow from 2003 – 2006 and was a PhD student there from 2000 – 2004.

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

My research is about facilitated participation and how people are enabled to participate in their own care. Broadly I am interested in the experiences of the implementation of health and social policies on marginalized groups, particularly older and younger people with mental health problems. My PhD, Citizenship and Care for People with Dementia, used ethics of care to understand how detention decisions were made with (or without) older people with dementia and their families.

More recently, I have considered drug and alcohol service provision for young people aged 12 – 16 in the same way. My current research, ‘Acts of Citizenship’ asks mental health service users and activists about influences on the outcomes of care, as well as identifying the issues that they think most need to change in practice as part of their change advocacy. Analysis in these projects uses care ethics to consider Tronto’s integrity of care and how that is experienced by people using services.

I have a practice background as a mental health nurse and that prompted my interest in the impact of care practices on people who use services. I once interviewed a nurse who had trained as I had in an asylum, and she recalled her training as a ‘catalogue of human rights abuses’. My research interest was shaped by my firsthand experience of seeing service provision as a lack of care, and equally that there are ample opportunities when care can happen.

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

When I began my PhD research I was thinking about how people with dementia have or do not have rights, but rights based approaches reinforce that people are not able to have rights rather than answer the problems of trying to provide good care. Marian Barnes, who was also at the University of Birmingham at the time, gave me a copy of Joan Tronto’s Moral Boundaries and I instantly recognized the power of care ethics when considering experiences of marginalization.

4. How would you define ethics of care?

Ethics of care surfaces the essential role of care in society, and this includes who does care and who benefits from that care, both paid and unpaid. Ethics of care can be used to examine classed, gendered and racialised aspects of care. Ethics of care also provides a critical framework by which the intentions and realities of care can be assessed. Broadly, it is able to challenge overvalued notions of independence and autonomy and this is long overdue to quell some of the ferocity of neoliberalism.

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

The most important thing for me about ethics of care is that it provides a coherent and applicable framework for the consideration of ethics in practice. When I first read Moral Boundaries, I wondered why I never knew about ethics of care as a practitioner. So, as well as my research area, I teach ethics of care to experienced practitioners and they instantly ‘get it’ about the usefulness of ethics of care to articulate why and how care needs to occur in practice. Beyond the analysis of care practices, ethics of care begins to demystify how care can possibly be so undervalued.

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

Joan Tronto for Moral Boundaries (1993) and I am looking forward to the next edition; Selma Sevenhuijsen for both Trace analysis and her 1998 book Citizenship and the Ethics of Care. Feminist Considerations on Justice, Morality and Politics; and most recently Marian Barnes’ latest book Care in Everyday Life (2012).

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

In addition to those listed above I welcome the plethora of new publishing in the area in the special issues in 2010 and 2011 of the journals Ethics and Social Welfare and Nursing Ethics. It was fabulous to see hem and Pettersen’s work about acute mental health care.

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

Many of my publications are about the experiences of people with dementia and their families and more are in development about, for example, how responsiveness may be practiced when working with people with mental health problems. Another area of interest is the commonalities of care ethics and values practiced in Māori centered practice. An edited book is planned from the Critical Care conference in Brighton UK in September 2012 with Marian Barnes, Lizzie Ward and Nicki Ward.

  • Brannelly T, Boulton A and Te Hiini A (2013) A relationship between the ethics of care and Māori worldview – the place of relationality and care in Maori mental health service provision, Ethics and Social Welfare, DOI:10.1080/17496535.2013.764001.
  • Brannelly, T. (2011). Sustaining citizenship: People with dementia and the phenomenon of social death. Nursing Ethics. 18(5), 662-671
  • Brannelly, P. (2011). That others matter: The moral achievement – Care ethics and citizenship in practice with people with dementia. Ethics and Social Welfare 5(2), 210-216
  • Barnes, M., & Brannelly, T. (2008). Achieving care and social justice for people with dementia. Nursing Ethics. 15(3), 384-395
  • Brannelly, PM. (2006). Negotiating ethics in dementia care: An analysis of an ethic of care in practice. Dementia. 5(2), 197-212

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

I would like to see more discussion within the group of care ethicists to see how the theory is used and what people think could be added to it, so an inward facing discussion. Also an outwards facing discussion is required to get others on board to demystify the importance of care, interdependence and a critical review of care and who is cared for. One struggle seems to be getting the message across about the political impact of considering democracy and care.

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

Thanks for the invite to contribute here and for the compilation of the other interviews which are fascinating. The Critical Care conference in September 2012 captured some of the current lively interest and dynamism about care ethics and the hope is to continue that conversation through the Global Care Ethics Network hosted on the website eSocSci. People with an interest in care ethics are invited to contribute to discussions about the development of care ethics and to spread the word about their work. If anyone wants to join the network please email me at p.m.brannelly@massey.ac.nz eSocSci aims to foster engagement at all levels of social science, and is live from April 12th 2013.