Care Ethics and Poetry

Care Ethics and Poetry

Care Ethics and Poetry is the first book length work to address the relationship between poetry and feminist care ethics.  

The authors argue that morality, and more specifically, moral progress, is a product of inquiry, imagination, and confronting new experiences. Engaging poetry, therefore, can contribute to the habits necessary for a robust moral life—specifically, caring.  

Each chapter offers poems that can provoke considerations of moral relations without explicitly moralizing. Topics include Poetry and Ethics, Habits of Caring Knowledge, Habits of Imagination, Habits of Encountering Singularity, and Moral Progress.  The book contributes to valorizing poetry and aesthetic experience as much as it does to reassessing how we think about care ethics.

Primarily a book of philosophy rather than literary analysis, Care Ethics and Poetry includes dozens of poems.  For those who view care theory as more than a normative ethic of adjudication, this will be an important work.

Care Ethics and Poetry by Maurice Hamington and Ce Rosenow.  
ISBN-10: 303017977X  ISBN-13: 978-3030179779


“A lovely tribute to both poetry and care ethics and how, together, they increase moral sensitivity and joy in our relationships.”
Nel Noddings, Lee Jacks Professor of Child Education, Emerita, Stanford University

“Finally, a book that does justice to care by welcoming complexity, context and creativity. This polyvocal book delightfully and meticulously tells us the story about a performative and aesthetic approach to caring and moral progress. Slowly but surely, one becomes part of an intimate tapestry of voices of poets, ethicists and moral philosophers. Hamington and Rosenow not only provide us with new ethical language, they also evoke wonder and a longing for more.”
Merel Visse, Associate Professor of Care Ethics, University of Humanistic Studies, The Netherlands

Call for Papers: Care Ethics, Religion and Spiritual Traditions

spiritual traditions, religion and care ethics

Feminist Care Ethics has received extensive attention in a variety of fields over the past quarter century including political science, philosophy, education, social work, sociology and more. There has been relatively little discussion of Care Ethics in the field of Religious Studies. Surprisingly, given that virtually all mainstream religions hold care and compassion as a major tenet. Care Ethics and Religion will be a volume of original essays that fills this intellectual gap.

Editors Maurice Hamington, Carlo Leget, Inge van Nistelrooij, and Maureen Sander-Staudt invite papers on the topic of Care Ethics and religious teachings, traditions, identities, practices, practitioners, as well as atheism and humanist spiritual traditions. All contributions should engage feminist Care Ethics as exemplified by scholars such as Marian Barnes, Carol Gilligan, Nel Noddings, and Joan Tronto.

Prospective contributors should submit a 500 word abstract to by April 15, 2019.


Care Ethics is a moral theory and interdisciplinary field of studies/enquiry, rooted in relations of interdependency and universal human needs for care. The ethic departs from moral theories such as Utilitarianism, Kantianism, and Neo-Liberalism in critiquing their individualistic, rationalistic, and abstract elements as distortions of lived human lives.

Care Ethics postulates that humans are universally born in need of embodied and social-psychological care. Making care ontologically prior to moral concerns such as justice. Despite the universal need for care which makes care-giving an essential practice without which human life would cease, the ethic situates care giving practices in particular places, times, and identities.

Given the extent to which care giving overlaps with richly diverse religious and spiritual identities, beliefs, rituals, and traditions, this volume seeks to expand the field of Care Ethics to consider how religion, construed for global religious and secular audiences, potentially enhances but can also destabilize the goals of care.

Commentary and analysis

The editors of this anthology invite critical commentary and analysis on how religion, both organized and less formally arranged, may facilitate or erode the normative goals associated with Care Ethics. To the extent that many religions recognize the human and embodied need for care, and valorize the moral obligation to give and take care as having a divine component, it is sometimes the case that religious practices enrich care.

At the same time, as a feminist ethic, Care Ethics is well situated to uniquely critique and question a wide variety of religious motifs, practices, and teachings in light of how well they do and do not succeed in completing the goals of care in ways that are competent and just. This volume seeks to initiate discussion of the possible affinities and strains between Care Ethics and religion, broadly construed, and to indicate areas in need of future study.


Possible questions/topics may include but are not limited to:

  • How does religion contribute to caring identity and practice?
  • Are caring virtues also religious virtues, and the converse?
  • Ideal syntheses of care ethics and religion/spirituality
  • Care-ethical and religious perspectives on precarity and compassion
  • Care as a religious motif
  • Care ethics, atheism and secular humanism
  • Care ethics and non-supernatural spiritual traditions (e.g. Buddhism, Taoism)
  • Care, religion, and anthropocentrism/relations with the natural world
  • Care as instrument of religious colonialism and oppression
  • Religion as catalyst for care completion and social equity
  • Care ethics and theology on love and compassion
  • Care ethics as a critique of religious theory and practice
  • Coping with suffering, death, and loss
  • Queering care ethics and religion
  • Spiritual violence and care
  • Care as a gendered and intersectional religious theme
  • Care, religion and sexuality
  • Care as a marginalized, disenfranchised, and appropriated concept in religion
  • Care and religion as slave moralities
  • The role of embodiment in religion and care
  • Contested concepts: care, love, compassion in religion
  • Care and God; the divine; good/evil; heaven/hell; the afterlife

Call for Papers: Second Global Carework Summit

Global Carework Summit

The Carework Network is organizing a three-day conference to bring together carework researchers from across disciplines and across the globe; June 9-11, 2019, Toronto, Ontario.

Carework Network

The Carework Network is an international organization of scholars and advocates who focus on the caring work of individuals, families, communities, paid caregivers, social service agencies and state bureaucracies. Care needs are shifting globally with changing demographics, disability movements, and climate change driven environmental crises.

Our mission is to address critical issues related to carework, such as how identities influence carework; how inequality structures carework; how caring work is recognized and compensated; how state policies influence the distribution of care; working conditions of care; and whether and to what extent citizens have a right to receive, and a right to provide, care.  Scholars and advocates working on issues related to elder care, child care, health care, social work, education, political theory of care, social reproduction, work/family, disability studies, careworker health and safety, and related issues are encouraged to submit proposals.

The Carework Network welcomes submissions from all academic disciplines, advocacy and non-profit organizations, and public and private sector organizations. We also encourage participation by undergraduate and graduate students. We invite proposals for papers, fully-constituted panels, or workshops.[pullquote]Different perspectives on care work – Global Carework Summit 2017[/pullquote]


Authors and organizers should submit a proposal of their paper, panel, or workshop to (by e-mail only) no later than December 1, 2018.

  1. Individual paper submissions should include title, names and contact information for author(s), and an abstract of 300 words maximum;
  2. Fully constituted panel proposals should include a general title/theme, contact information for the organizer, and title, author, contact information, and abstract (300 words maximum) for each paper.
  3. Workshop proposals should include a title/theme, 300 word abstract, and names and contact information for all participants.

Decisions regarding acceptances should be made by January 31, 2019.

Questions about the Global Summit may be directed to

Call for Papers: Societas Ethica’s Annual Conference

societas ethica

Call for Papers: Feminist Ethics and the Question of Gender
Societas Ethica’s 55th Annual Conference, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium — 23-26 August 2018

Why should feminist ethics and gender be a central focus in the work of philosophical and theological ethics? While this question has been discussed within the fields of feminist and gender theory, philosophers and theologians have often overlooked the category of gender in their work.

Is feminist ethics a distinct ethical theory, or rather a category of inquiry in any approach to ethics? How does the feminist perspective enrich our ability to address such subjects as power, social, cultural, and political participation, poverty, racism, misogyny, homo/transphobia, economic inequality, and healthcare? And how does this lens sharpen the reinterpretation of
normative understandings of moral, ethical, and religious traditions? To what degree is the rise of nationalism connected with normative imageries of masculinity and femininity, which now require ethical interrogation, especially against the backdrop of social disintegration?

At our conference, we want to strike a balance between theoretical inquiries and historical or contemporary case studies.
We welcome contributions from philosophical, theological, and applied ethics, as well as from political and social theory, history, psychology, and the sciences. The conference languages will be English, French and German. The deadline for submitting proposals is 03 April 2018.


Proposals may be submitted for concurrent sessions addressing the following areas:

  • Feminist ethics, gender, and the traditions of ethics
  • Gender roles, gender identity, and gender justice
  • Concepts of autonomy and care
  • Concepts of masculinity, femininity, and gender fluidity
  • Gendered representations of the Divine
  • Embodiment and gender
  • Nature and freedom in relation to gender
  • The pandemic of sexual violence
  • Responses to sexual violence, such as #MeToo
  • Poverty, racism, structural injustice
  • Faces of misogyny and homo/transphobia
  • Sexual difference and “gender ideology”
  • Political, economic and healthcare inequalities
  • Aging and ageism
  • Nationalism and populism in relation to gender

Paper proposals should contain no more than 800 words (excluding bibliography), and clearly present a moral question or argument addressing one of the aforementioned topics. The deadline is 03 April 2018.

Please send in the following two documents as Word attachments to Dr. Silas Morgan at, using the subject line “Societas Ethica 2018 Conference.”

  • Document 1: Your name, first name, email address, institutional address, the title of your abstract, the topic under which your paper proposal falls, and, if eligible, your application to participate in the Young Scholars’ Award competition.
  • Document 2: Your paper proposal including bibliography (max. 10 references), keywords and title with all identifying references removed. Please use Times New Roman 12 pt for body, references and keywords, and Ariel (bold) 16 pt for headline.

The abstract of the conference papers will be published in the conference proceedings.
Selected papers (voluntary) will be published in a special issue of the journal De Ethica; A Journal of Philosophical, Theological and Applied Ethics.

Societas Ethica Young Scholars’ Award is awarded to the best presentation by a young scholar. Young scholars for the purpose of this competition are doctoral students and researchers who earned their degree less than two years ago and do not have a tenure-track academic position. For more information about Societas Ethica Young Scholars’ Award, please visit the website at

Societas Ethica – the European Society for Research in Ethics – has more than 270 members from approximately 35 countries. Led by the current president Dr. Hille Haker (Loyola University Chicago), Societas Ethica endeavors to stimulate contacts between scholars in different countries, surpassing political, ideological and religious curtains. We welcome papers from non-members and members.

Interdependency: The fourth existential insult to humanity

Tom Malleson-Interdependency

Tom Malleson, PhD recently published an interesting article on interdependency, from a care ethical point of view. He argues that taking interdependency seriously would lead to profound changes in our culture, our central political concepts, and even our major institutions. We contacted Tom Malleson for an insight into the background of the article and the author.


“I’m one of those academics who is always curious, always jumping around between disciplines, like some kind of intellectual nomad, between the fields of political science, philosophy, sociology, political economy, and feminist theory.
One strand of my research interest revolves around the study of Real Utopias, which are institutions designed to be both normatively emancipatory and empirically grounded. My interests in this area include things like economic democracy, the solidarity economy, basic income, participatory budgeting, carbon taxes, universal caregiving, and so on.

Another strand of my research interest involves certain debates in contemporary political philosophy. One of the major positions in political theory, as well as in the mainstream public, is that of libertarianism. I had long been uncomfortable with libertarian ideas – which conventionally start from a mysterious “state of nature” of independent men walking around in the woods, creating private property, and trading with other men. Where are the women in this picture? Where are the kids? Where are the disabled and the elderly, in short – where were the real human beings?”

Ethics of care feminists

“Thinking through these questions led me to feminist philosophy, and in particular, the work of ethics of care feminists. For them, a fundamental feature of human life is relationality and interdependency. Human beings are not born free. We do not emerge from the birth canal fully attired in suit and tie. In fact, human beings are born helpless, vulnerable, and inherently dependent on others. To the extent that we become free, it is due to the support, nurturance, and care provided to us by others.

Delving into this area made me realize all the myriad ways in which our current society is still tied to old ideas of “independence”; it is woven into our culture, our basic concepts, even our economic institutions. Yet once we come to grip with the fact of our actual interdependence, many of these old ideas and practices will need to change. That’s what this paper is all about.”

Malleson, T. (2017). Interdependency: The fourth existential insult to humanity. Contemporary Political Theory. doi: 10.1057/s41296-017-0167-2.
Read the full article here.

Tom Malleson
Tom Malleson

Tom Malleson

Assistant professor of Social Justice & Peace Studies at King’s University in Western University, Canada.
Research interests are interdisciplinary, crisscrossing contemporary political theory, feminist theory, political economy, philosophy, and sociology.

Hee-Kang Kim

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.

Different perspectives on care work

Global Carework Summit 2017

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

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

Care Work

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

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

Care work on a Global Level: United Nations Programs

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

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

A feminist economist, intersectional perspective

Nancy Folbre
Nancy Folbre

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

Bargaining power

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

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

Focus on high power groups?

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

Social spillovers

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

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

Sophie Bourgault

Sophie Bourgault

Interview with dr. Sophie Bourgault, director of the axis Ethics of Care and Associate Professor, School of Political Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ottawa.

1. Where are you working at this moment?

I teach political theory at the University of Ottawa, Canada.

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

Some of my recent publications have considered the ethics of hospitality (whether articulated in some ancient Greek political thought, in French Enlightenment sources or in contemporary political theory).  In all three cases, I was struck by the affinities between the ethics of care and the ethics of hospitality (both attach great importance to empathy, openness to alterity, attentiveness, etc.).
But rather than claim that both ethics are more or less about the same thing, I have argued that the ethics of care is a powerful critical tool with which to reexamine accounts of hospitality ethics (too many are insufficiently attentive to the heavily gendered dimensions of hospitality).
Also, much of my work in the last three years has concerned itself with the political thought of Simone Weil and Hannah Arendt, two thinkers who are often invoked in the literature on care as you know.

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

During my doctoral studies, I had already spent some time writing on the question of whether an ethics of care could be a truly feminist ethics (I answered in the affirmative then and I am still convinced that this answer was the correct one).  But then I largely put that literature aside as I wrote my doctoral thesis.  It is only five years later, at the University of Ottawa, that I returned to care ethics.  What largely drew me back was my work on Simone Weil (and more specifically, her understanding of love/compassion and her account of human needs and political obligations).

4. How would you define ethics of care?

If I had to define it most simply, I would say that it is an ethics that gives pride of place to the fundamental vulnerability and interdependence that are constitutive of the human being.  It is also an ethics that attaches great weight to particulars, contexts, and relationships in moral and political judgment. It is an ethics that places human needs (rather then rights) at the forefront of its account of socio-political life, and it is an ethics that is primarily concerned (as Carol Gilligan’s early work showed well) with answering the following question: “how should I respond?” (instead of ‘what is right?’).

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

I think that one of the most important things the ethics of care have offered since Gilligan is a rich and original conception of voice. It is a highly relational account that attaches a great deal of importance to attentive listening, to hearing. As I argued last year in a talk on care, I think that the ethics of care profoundly challenges our logocentric, Aristotelian tradition—a tradition that has assigned great importance to speaking, and almost none to genuine listening.

Here is one of the chief ideas of Simone Weil, who insisted repeatedly during her short life that social justice and a decent, meaningful civic life was impossible without genuine, active listening.  While this might strike some as a platitude, I would suggest that theorizing listening and making listening central to democratic life today is really far from obvious and that it is a great challenge.

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

There have been so many.  To name a few: I’ve learned a great deal from Fiona Robinson, Patricia Paperman, Pascale Molinier, Sandra Laugier, Fabienne Brugère, Carol Gilligan, Elena Pulcini and Joan Tronto.  More recently, I’ve also taken a great deal of interest in the work of Marie Garrau and Alice LeGoff, who have, as you know, worked on orchestrating an exciting (if not entirely unproblematic) dialogue between neo-republicanism and care ethics.

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

Like countless others, I think that Gilligan’s In a Different Voice was the pivotal work in the development of the ethics of care. And so was Joan Tronto’s Moral Boundaries. It is unfortunate that Sara Ruddick’s Maternal Thinking has fallen off the radar (I think it is a book that has been misunderstood and that it would be worth revisiting).

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

I suppose that in order to understand why I’m convinced that care theorists should return to Simone Weil (not for her concept of attention but for her account of human needs and her critique of rights discourse), they should read my piece ‘Beyond the saint and the red virgin: Simone Weil as feminist theorist of care’ ((Sophie Bourgault. (2014). Beyond the Saint and the Red Virgin: Simone Weil as Feminist Theorist of Care. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 35(2), 1-27. )).  I also have a forthcoming (2015) edited volume on the ethics and politics of care (co-edited with Julie Perreault), which would allow you to appreciate the wonderful and diverse work done on care in French-speaking Canada.

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

As I have argued a few times in the past, I think that care theorists should take a much closer look at the question of institutions -including bureaucratic ones. My colleague Julie Perreault is involved in a great project which I also think would be worthy of a lot more attention by care theorists all over the world; establishing a conversation between care feminism and aboriginal feminism.

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

I think that this is a wonderful project! I will admit that I’m particularly excited about the fact that your network will likely overcome the linguistic divides that have affected care research in Europe and North American. Hopefully, your network and University will manage to bring together, on a fairly regular basis,  researchers from all over the world.

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Fiona Robinson

Fiona Robinson

1. Where are you working at this moment?

I just completed a first draft of a chapter for a new edited collection, Care Ethics and Political Theory (2015).  It is edited by Maurice Hamington and Daniel Engster and will be published by Oxford University Press.  My chapter is called ‘Care Ethics and the Future of Feminism’, and it addresses care ethics as a basis for feminist theory and practice in the contemporary context of neoliberalism.  I am excited about the book, as it brings together many wonderful care ethicists, including Joan Tronto, Virginia Held, and Margaret Walker, to name just a few.

I have also recently completed a first draft of a policy paper for the Canadian policy think tank – IRPP, or Institute for Research in Public Policy.  The paper addresses our assumptions about the nature of care, vulnerability and dependency related to the issue of elder care. Finally, I am writing a paper – ultimately destined to be another book chapter – on care ethics and the politics of recognition in the international context.  This is somewhat new territory for me so it is proving to be a challenge.

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

My research addresses the ethics of care in the context of global politics.  Within this broad idea, I have a number of different interests.  My first book (1999) was a preliminary, and largely theoretical, exploration of the relevance of care ethics to global politics or ‘International Relations’.  Since then I have developed this idea in relation to a number of different themes – human rights, labor rights, poverty, global justice and ‘ethical globalization’.  My most recent book (2011) considers ‘care’ as a theoretical and practical basis for building a new approach to human security.  In 2011 I also published another book – a co-edited collection (with Rianne Mahon) — on care ethics and social policy.  This book looks directly at care work in a transnational context and is explicitly aimed at bringing together the ‘ethics’ and ‘policy’ literature on care.

3. How did you get involved in the care ethics?

I have always been interested in questions of moral responsibility across borders.  After my undergraduate degree in Political Studies and English Literature, I did an MA in Development Studies.  Finding this to be too ‘policy-oriented’ I went on to a PhD, where my research focused on ethics and global justice.  I was very dissatisfied with the literature on global justice, most of which I found to be very abstract, individualist, contractualist and apolitical. After reading Carol Gilligan and other works on care ethics, I began to consider the possibilities of this paradigm for transnational or global questions – primarily questions of inequality and poverty.

4. How would you define care ethics?

I would define the ethics of care a moral disposition and set of practices that revolve around an understanding of the self as constituted by relations with others.  Care ethics presents responsibilities and practices of care as the substance of morality and reveals the extent to which the prevalence of women in widely undervalued caring positions is a social construction rather than a ‘natural’ feature of femininity.  Politically, the ethics of care seeks solutions to problems related to the giving and receiving of care that are nonexploitative and equitable.  I see care ethics not primarily as a normative theory, but as a feminist critical theory.  Because it fundamentally challenges the gendered public-private dichotomy, care ethics disrupts and challenges historically-constructed gender norms, roles and power relations.

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

I have learned that ‘ethics’ can never stand apart from politics.  I have also learned that the ability to listen properly to others and to develop patience are a key part of what it means to ‘act morally’ to and with others.

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

I have learned so much from reading the work of Carol Gilligan, Sara Ruddick, Joan Tronto, Virginia Held, Carol Gould and Margaret Urban Walker, among others. Virginia, Joan and Carol have offered me great encouragement and support over the years.  My fellow ‘International Relations’ scholar Kim Hutchings, at the London School of Economics, does wonderful work from which I have learned a great deal.

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

It is difficult to name only a few.  If pressed, I would say Sara Ruddick’s Maternal Thinking, Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice, and  Joan Tronto’s Moral Boundaries.

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

My first book (1999) – Globalizing Care:  Ethics, Feminist Theory and International Relations – was really the first sustained attempt tot hink about the ethics of care in the context of international or global politics.  So for that reason, I think it is important.

I see my most recent book (2011), The Ethics of Care:  A Feminist Approach to Human Security, as continuing where that book left off.   Because it seeks to apply the ideas of care ethics to important transnational political issues – the environment, HIV/aids, peacebuilding, women’s work in the global political economy – I think that it may be of interest to students and scholars in a wide range of disciplines.

I still recommend to students one of my oldest pieces (1998) – ‘The limits of a rights-based approach to international ethics’ in Tony Evans, ed., Human Rights Fifty Years On.

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

I am increasingly convinced that there should be sustained attention by care ethicists to the effects of neoliberalism and the increasing financialization of both global politics and our daily lives.

10. In Utrecht our ambition is to promote care ethics nationally and internationally. Do you have any recommendations or wishes?

Your organization and website are wonderful.  It is important to bring together scholars working on different aspects of care ethics.  I think that the next challenge is to introduce the ideas of care ethics to a wider audience – both within academia and beyond.

Image: Robinson at CGEP (2013)
Published originally at (2014)

Eva Feder Kittay

Eva Feder Kittay

Interview with Eva Feder Kittay, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, at the Department of Philosophyat Stony Brook University, New York. 

1. Where are you working at this moment?

I am at Stony Brook University, where I have been since 1979.

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

I am working on a number of projects, some are directly on the ethics of care and some are in the area of philosophy and disability—especially cognitive disability—which is also deeply informed by the ethics of care. The work in the ethics of care includes a piece I will be writing on how to think about a politics in which the first virtue is care. Joan Tronto’s latest book promises to be an exercise in just this line of thought. The work of numerous scholars has shown the many ways in which care is relevant to realms outside the domain of the intimate and the domestic. But an ethics of care is an ethic, not a politics. It is still concerned with relations individuals bear to individuals not with the institutional structures and forms that are the concern of politics. How should we think about institutional structures when we consider the first virtue of social organization to be care rather than justice? What sorts of institutions can foster caring relationships? What sorts of institutions are indifferent or even hostile to promoting them?

Answers to these questions require a genuinely normative conception of care. If care is to be a normative conception, we should not be able to speak of such a thing as “too much care” any more than we can speak of “too much justice.” Uses of the term “care” that countenance care as overweaning or paternalistic or merely a “natural disposition” fall outside the normative sense. This is not to say that we never speak about care in such ways, nor that a normative conception cannot build on a moral psychology that includes natural human capacities to respond empathetically to others. But if an ethic of care is to be a true ethic that guides us and helps us evaluate actions are good or morally desirable ones and steers us away from those that are harmful or gratuitously hurtful, and if we are to build institutions that promote the values inherent in a true ethic of care, then we need to sort out the normative sense of care—that is, those that are prescriptive, that tell us what we ought to do to act in a caring way.

Such a notion of care can perhaps best be approached from what Nel Noddings called “the completion of care.” Noddings, along with Tronto spoke of an aspect of care that few others have pursued. Tronto called it the fourth phase of care, the receiving of care, while Noddings spoke of care needing to be completed in the other. This is a profoundly important aspect of care that has been glossed over and that can, I believe help us identify the truly normative sense of care. If care must be received as care by the one cared for, then many things that we sometimes identify with care, such as caring intentions or affect will be insufficient to be care. If care needs to be completed in the other, then actions that are overweaning or paternalistic will not be taken us as something desirable—as something that is really caring—by the cared for. The project to take up the consequences of “the completion of care” is then another project I am engaged with.

And finally, a third project I am continuing to work on is the global care chains, about which I have written several articles. I have just completed a third piece on the topic that I call “The Body as the Place of Care.” I am working with a group on Care and Place and my thinking about migrant carework is being informed by the study of the relationship between Care and Place.

The work on disability that I am now doing is a manuscript tentatively entitled “Disabled Minds and Things That Matter: Lessons Toward a Humbler Philosophy.” In this work I am pulling together the themes that have emerged in my essays as I have confront traditional philosophical thought with the fact of cognitively disabled individuals. My thinking here is grounded in an ethics of care. Questions such as the dignity of people with cognitive impairments, the personhood of people with severe cognitive disability and justice toward the cognitively disabled on the role of care in human social life and in creating us as the relational beings we are ones that I treat using an ethics of care.

In addition I will be doing a paper on disparities of health care resources directed at the disabled. This is a new concern, but it comes out of the work on the efforts of some to reduce the moral status of people with cognitive disabilities and there is a danger that this will result in cut backs to people with these disabilities.

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

I have been interested in feminist philosophy from its inception. I taught my first course in feminist philosophy in 1978 when there were only about five books on the subject, one of which was The Second Sex. I worked in the philosophy of language, and had not studied much ethics in graduate school because I found the sort of ethics being done then, mostly analytic metaethics, not interesting to me. Nonetheless the reason I first got interested in philosophy was because of my interest in ethics.

When Gilligan published “In a Different Voice” I asked my friend Diana Meyers, who worked in ethics, to help me put together a conference in which moral philosophers and feminist philosophers would look at the proposition that there was an ethics of care that philosophers had neglected. The conference issued in what was a ground-breaking collection, Women and Moral Theory. At that point, I was not yet ready to write in the area because I felt I was insufficiently schooled in ethics. But I taught the material regularly and wrote in the area of feminist philosophy. An invitation to give a talk on the “Elusiveness of Equality” plunged me into the literature on equality and I began to see the relevance of the relational approach to ethics that an ethics of care presented.

Equality, I saw, has been elusive to women because women continued to do the work of care even as they entered the workplace, and neither men, nor accommodations in the workplace, eased the traditional work of caregiving for women. Women accepted their caregiving obligations because they had a stronger sense of responsibility to do this work; they had a more abiding ethic of care which they did not give up as they joined the world of men, a world created upon, and without the recognition of, women’s work of care—and most especially care of dependents. Women caring for dependents made women dependent and unable to function and compete on par with the “independent” unencumbered men. In order to understand the dynamics and the place of care and an ethic of care in allowing women to, as Beauvoir writes, “share the world in equality,” I had to think through important conceptions in an ethics of care: the asymmetric relationships, the relational self, the relationship of care and justice, and so forth.

4. How would you define ethics of care?

An ethics of care takes caring relationships as a morally fundamental form of relationship and value. The moral agent is a caring self, who can look past her own immediate needs and desires and takes on the cares of the other as her own. An ethics of care sees the affective connection between people as prior to a calculative reason that binds self-interested person. An ethics of care is fundamentally other-directed, but it is an ethic that understands that our own well-being is never entirely independent of the well-being of the other. An ethics of care understands responsibility to be bound by the connection to and an understanding of the needs and wants of the other. Asymmetrical and partial relations are as morally relevant as symmetrical and impartial ones and the mode of deliberation at once respects both emotional responses as well as rational considerations.

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

Eva Feder Kittay
Eva Feder Kittay

An ethics of care allowed me to make sense of how my mother could be as good a person as she was given that she failed to personify the rational impartial moral deliberator that I had learned to prize in my readings in philosophy. My father, also a good man, answered to those criteria, but in some ways my mother was generous with herself, and more giving (although her political judgment was often off). Not untill I read Gilligan did I see why there was such a dissonance between the moral conception of the person as I understood it philosophically, and the fact of my mother’s moral character. In addition, an ethics of care has given me another way of seeing how my own disabled daughter fits into the moral universe. I never doubted she did, but the conceptions at hand were not helpful in allowing me to identify her place in any fully articulated philosophical scheme.

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

Although there has been wonderful work done in care theory, I keep going back to Gilligan and Sara Ruddick whose initial insights continue to yield fruit.

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

To enumerate a list would inevitably leave out work that is equally important. I don’t like to play the “most important” game.

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

Well, Love’s Labor is still a good statement of my fundamental vision. But I have done much else since then. Much of it is also connected to my work on issues of disability. Woman and Moral Theory, although old, is still chock full of good things. I am very proud of The Subject of Care that I coedited with Ellen Feder. Among my articles I would note:

  • Not My Way, Sesha, Your Way, Slowly: ‘Maternal Thinking’ in the Raising of a Child with Profound Intellectual Disabilities.” In Mother Trouble: Legal Theorists, Philosophers and Theologians Reflect on Dilemmas of Parenting. Edited by Julia Hanisberg and Sara Ruddick. New York: Beacon Press, 1999, pp.3-27.
  • “At Home with My Daughter: Reflections on Olmstead v. L. C. and E. W.” In Americans With Disabilities: Exploring Implications of the Law for Individuals and Institutions. Edited by Leslie Francis and Anita Silvers, Rouledge, 2000.
  • “Relationality, Personhood, and Peter Singer on the Fate of Severely Impaired Infants.” APA Newsletter on Philosophy and Medicine, Winter 2000. Reprinted in Pediatric Bioethics, edited by Geoffrey Miller, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2009.
  • “When Care is Just and Justice is Caring: The Case of the Care for the Mentally Retarded” Public Culture, vol. 13, no. 3, Special issue “The Critical Limits of Embodiment: Reflections on Disability Criticism.” September 2001, pp. 557-579. Reprinted in Kittay and Feder, The Subject of Care.
  • “On the Margins of Moral Personhood,” Ethics, October 2006, 100-131. Reprinted in Journal Of Bioethical Inquiry (2008) Volume: 5, Issue: March, Publisher: Springer Netherlands, Pages: 137-156
  • “Equality, Dignity and Disability” in Mary Ann Lyons and Fionnuala Waldron (eds.) (2005) Perspectives on Equality The Second Seamus Heaney Lectures. Dublin: The Liffey Press, pp. 95-122.
  • “Dependency, Difference, and Global Ethic of Longterm Care” (with Bruce Jennings and Angela Wasunna) The Journal of Political Philosophy, vol. 13 (2005), 443-469. Reprinted in Philosophy, Politics & Society, 8th Series (Population & Political Theory), ed. James S Fishkin and Robert E Goodin (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008 or 9). Reprinted in the Taiwanese Journal of Social Welfare, 2006.
  • “Beyond Autonomy and Paternalism,” Denier & T. Vandevelde, editor, Autonomy and Paternalism. Between Independence and Good Intentions, Leuven: Peeters, 2006, pp 1-29.
  • “A Tribute to an Idea: The Completion of Care” in Letters to Nel Noddings: Mother,Teacher, Scholar, Friend. ed. Robert Lake, Teacher’s College Press: New York, 2011.
  • “The Ethics of Care, Dependence and Disability “Getting from Here to There: Claiming Justice for People with Severe Cognitive Disabilities” in Rosamund Rhodes, Margaret Battin P., and Anita Silvers, editors, Medicine and Social Justice: Essays on the Distribution of Health Care, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press: New York (2012), pp. 313-324.
  • “The Moral Harm of Migrant Carework: Realizing a Global Right to Care” Polity volume, Gender & Global Justice. (revised and reprinted from Philosophical Topics, vol. 37, no. 1, Spring 2010, pp. 53-73) forthcoming
  • “Getting from Here to There: Claiming Justice for People with Severe Cognitive Disabilities” in Rosamund Rhodes, Margaret Battin P., and Anita Silvers, editors, Medicine and Social Justice: Essays on the Distribution of Health Care, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press: New York (2012), pp. 313-324.

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

A critical question, of course, is how to see an ethics of care as a global ethics and a politics. I also think it is important to understand the place of respect within an ethics of care. As I said, I think that most fundamentally we need to articulate the normative heart of care and to prune away those senses of care that come with its being borne of a practice done by those who are in a subordinate relatively powerless position. I think we need to understand the relationship between care and violence in order to see how the first aspect of our nature can be promoted and the second curbed. And finally, I think we need to connect an ethic of care to the struggles of marginalized, subordinated and endangered others. Understanding the self relationally has a great deal of power to help release us from oppressive conditions and oppressive practices. We need to develop an ethics of care in these directions.

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

Encourage care ethicists to bring their considerations to bear on questions of disability, sexual minorities, questions of immigration and globalization. Encourage economists to come together with care ethicists to understand the economic structures that keep the work of caring as the responsibility of the disempowered. Encourage politicians to talk about issues of care. Engage in projects that help us to see what the best caring practices are for groups that find current practices unsatisfactory or oppressive.

? Eva Feder Kittay