Tula Brannelly

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.