Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Duty of Care

Carol Gilligan makes the argument that a feminist ethics is peculiarly and particularly an ethics of care. There is some parallel with Levinas' ethics of the face-to-face encounter with the other, in which the incompleteness of the Ego is demonstrated to it. What became apparent in discussions of indigenous ethics, or the ethical problem posed by indigeneiry – its particular claim to 'culture' or 'identity;' in ways unavailable to westerners – is the extraordinary generosity, noted by Barry Barclay among others, of indigenous people with their knowledge, their depth of knowledge, and their time, in every sense of that word. In this instance, the instance of the danger of ventriloquism, of speaking as if from the position of the Other and on behalf of the other, a demand peculiar to the media, where acess to both the technological basis for recording and editing, and more particularly of transmission, is in the hands of the coloniser, in the case of ventriloquism based in an ethic of care, something peculiar about the ethic of care becomes clearer.

The duty of care can only be exercised in the presence of an Other who gives themselves openly for care, like the weeping child (as everyone knows, you cannot comfort a child who refuses to be comforted).

This is the pojnt of Kant's delimitation of the cosmopolitan ethic of hosptality: that we must not treat the stranger as an enemy unless they come in the guise of an enemy.

Care extends to pariahs like the torturers of Abu Ghraib if and only if they offer themselves to care.

(They alone can judge whether their prisoners came to them as enemeies or as strangers)


Anonymous said...

Read this entry long after 9-11; so, thought it was talking about visual anthropology and new media ethnographies especially of/with indigenous peoples. Then I was startled by the last few sentences -- oh, this was not a corrective to research that seeks to use alternative modes (borrowed from the subjects of research) for the design and organization of the work. If it was developed in that direction, then I hope you will say more ... about speaking beside (not about) the Other peoples ... work that I have attempted with care.

Sean Cubitt said...

My guide on these issues has been Linda Tuiwai Smith's Decolonising methodologies. Her book is quite specific to Aotearoa, and is intended for the guidance of Maori undertaking kaupapa maori research. Other influences: Jimmie Durham's Cowboys and . . ., and Barry Barclay's wonderfu; book on indigenous response to intelectual property. As pakeha (tho now living in Australia) I'm fascinated too by Ernesto Cardenal's use of personae as a way to make poetry in Spanish of the experience of indigenous peoples of central and northern Latin America: Los Ovnis de oro / Golden UFOs is a stunning work of transcultural imagination in the service of a thoroughly ethical (and political) utopia. But in the end, all I have to offer is questions . . .