Interview Kari Greenswag

Kari Greenswag (Los Angeles, USA) has finished her PhD at the department of Philosophy of the University of Sydney (Australia) in 2016. Her doctoral thesis is called “Globalizing the Ethics of Care: Policy, Transformation, and Judgment”. The burning issues she examines in her thesis are the increasing inequality in the world, the continued marginalization of women, and more broadly the growing crisis of care. Greenswag argues that the ethics of care should be considered an important lens through which to view complex international moral and political contexts. spoke with Kari Greenswag, and asked her three questions about her thesis.

  1. You argue that care ethics offers a different perspective on human rights discourse. According to your thesis, you say that the relational ontology of care ethics generates different questions than the traditionally individualist ontology of mainstream human rights theories. Can you be more specific in which sense(s) care ethics differ from tradition, and maybe give one example?Traditionally, when talking about human rights discourses, the unit of moral concern is the individual agent. To be fair, it would be selling human rights short to say that these questions are asked totally in absentia of one’s relationships, but the focus is nevertheless on individual persons. The underlying point of human rights is, in general, to protect something like human agency, or autonomy, or personhood, that is to say, the ability to choose a life of one’s own or live a ‘human’ kind of life. Human rights are meant to be a standard that persons should not fall below, and when they do, that signals that something has gone wrong. This means that human rights are, often, a straightforward proposition: either someone’s human rights are fulfilled or they are not. Further, if my human rights are fulfilled, that does not mean yours are, or vice versa. It is possible for one person to have all their human rights while others do not, even within the same community. While such a situation certainly signals a gross injustice, there is no inbuilt method in traditional human rights discourses to ask how these two instances are connected.Conversely, care ethics focuses on the moral relations between different sets of agents. The result of this shift in focus is a different method of moral and political investigation.. (Click here to read the full interview.)

About the author: Tessa Roberts-Smorenburg

Tessa Roberts-Smorenburg

Tessa Roberts-Smorenburg (1987) graduated as a master in Ethics of Care and Policy at the University of Humanistic Studies in Utrecht (NL) in 2015. She currently holds the double position of ethical consultant, and policy advisor in the Centre on the Quality of Life and Survivorship, at the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek hospital in Amsterdam (NL). This centre accommodates the physical/psychosocial, supportive and survivorship care for cancer patients. As a sociotherapist she worked in direct contact with patients in psychiatric clinics. Her previous experience at TAAK brought her in contact with visual artists and care institutions to whom she provided an ethics of care perspective during research and project development for the programme “Art & Care”.

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