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University Surrey

What’s in a name? A Care Ethics conference experience

At the 1st International Care Ethics (ICE) Observatory, fused with the 16th Nursing Ethics Conference, we, as care ethical scholars, found ourselves being caught in our own world view. Fully endorsing the care ethical lense through which we look, think and teach, we had interpreted the name of this conference automatically as if this would be a conference about Care Ethics. 

The conference started off with an inspiring lecture by Joan Tronto in which she posed the challenging questions ‘Is it possible to use an ethic of care in an uncaring manner?’ and ‘How shall we pursue an ethics of care that actually embodies an ethics of care?’. Tronto wittingly referred to the statement of the uncle of the heroic Spiderman that ‘With great power, comes great responsibility.’She rephrased this statement in a provoking way, saying that with great power, comes great irresponsibility. This has far-reaching implications for looking at our own care ethical research practices, in which we tend to be the ones with great power. And it acknowledges the meaning and value we see in participative research approaches, applied for the field of care ethics.

After a little cofee/tea break we attended the parallel session on philosophical aspects of care, in which we soon discovered that many other approaches to ethics in care practices also had a place in this conference. And that this conference was not solely on Care Ethics as we know it. This made us aware of our own valued stance, finding ourselves raising questions such as “who decides what is good or bad behaviour?”, “what is care ethical about this, if no open questions are asked?”, “What would this research project look like if relational understanding was taken into account?” And finally laughing at ourselves about our unconscious associations the name of this conference provoked in us! We interviewed several (care) ethicists at the conference.

Overall, this turned out to be a fruitful conference, stretching our minds for new ideas, collaborations and friendships. Last but not least, the International Care Ethical Research Consortium was launched at this conference, inviting care ethical scholars to jointly explore the many facets of care ethics.

Merel Visse & Vivianne Baur

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