Flávia Biroli

Flavia 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.

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.

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 Zorgethiek.nu (2014)