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selma-sevenhuijsen

Serie internationale zorgethici 21 – Selma Sevenhuijsen

1. Where are you working at this moment?

After my early retirement from Utrecht University in 2002 and 2008 I am working independently as a researcher, advisor, author, teacher and spiritual worker. Since 2003 I have worked with the labyrinth as a spiritual tool with many institutions in the Netherlands and internationally.

I have researched the history of the labyrinth in the culture of the Etruscans and train people how to work with the labyrinth. The labyrinth raised my interest in ancient sacred landscapes and the wisdom encapsulated in it. Recently I am lecturing and writing about my findings in Tuscany and Peru on this topic, calling my work ‘ancient wisdom for a new age’.

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

Although my recent work does not relate explicitly to the ethic of care, it certainly has its roots in my work on care. In a sense it springs from my earlier understanding that good care for others should be based in a well developed practice of ‘care for the self’. This supposes that we are willing to follow an ‘inner path’, an exploration of the soul. This path of self-exploration can contribute immensely to processes of attentiveness, responsibility, trust and peacemaking, and to a deeper experience of interconnectedness, all phenomena that I have emphasized in my work on care.

More than in my earlier work I am interested now in notions of love and of ‘care for the world’, including the need for an ecological perspective on the future of this planet. It strikes me that many spiritual movements have deeply developed understandings on these topics, that are – as far as I can see – not integrated in the discussion on the care ethics,

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

It started with the work of Carol Gilligan and its reception in feminist theory. In the beginning her work raised a lot of turmoil, but to me it seemed that we had to take her work seriously because she formulated the building blocks for a new, transformative approach to ethics and the place of moral deliberation in everyday life, and also in politics. So I decided to use her work to discuss the question if we can think differently about a range of topics that were high on the political agenda by that time.

Then I started to work with Joan Tronto. I have always greatly appreciated her proposal to see care as a basic human practice as well as her elaboration of the phases and values of care. Her work undermines the idea that care is a ‘ women’s issue’, while at the same it takes women’s experiences and their moral reasoning seriously.

4. How would you define ethics of care?

The ethics of care starts from the recognition that care is a moral practice, a disposition, a daily need, and a way of living. In opposition to individualism and neo-liberalism it acknowledges vulnerablity, interconnectedness, dependency embodiment and finitiude as basic characteristics of human life. It develops a set of values and virtues about how to deal with this in a potentially wide range of practices, from child care and care for the elderly, to psychiatry, economy and international relations. It acknowledges the contribution of all the participants in caring practices in the deliberation about what constitutes a good life and good care and about the practical conditions of its provison. Of course this implies a normative position in itself: caring about care implies democratic and inclusive forms of deliberation and a broad notion of citizenhip.

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

That ethics is not something that is or should be or can be confined to a limited group of experts, but that we are all moral reasoners who care about a lot of things in our own and collective lives.The ethic of care provides important tools to develop inclusive practices of moral reasoning.

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

I have learned a lot from the work of Carol Gilligan, Joan Tronto, Margaret Urban Walker, Iris Young, Eva Kittay, Sarah Ruddick, Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil. After my retirement I discovered the work of Carl Jung and Marie Louise von Franz. It gave me a much broader view on the human psyche than I have worked with in my work on care. Their notions on the shadow, on projection and transferral and on the ego and the Self and on archetypes could enrich a considerable part of the care ethic.

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

Joan Tronto’s Moral Boundaries remains the classical work for me. But by now there is a wide range of scholars who have developed the field further and refined earlier notions, and applied the care approach to many topics and disciplines: you could fill an extensive biography with their work.

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

Citizenship and the Ethics of Care, of course, but also The Heart of the Matter and Labyrinths of Care, books that I published together with collegues from Slovenia and other Eastern European countries to whom I have been teaching Trace, a method for policy analysis from the ethic of care. But there are more publications where I have worked with Trace. The most important are:

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

To develop a deeper understanding of a caring economy, to make further connections with the current worldwide spiritual transformation; and to have a more thorough impact on public discourse and the often distorted notions of care that are prevalent there.

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

Please go ahead!

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