Infinite Responsibility in the Bedpan: Response Ethics, Care Ethics, and the Phenomenology of Caregiving

Hypatia 31 (4):779-794 (2016)
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Drawing upon the practice of caregiving and the insights of feminist care ethics, I offer a phenomenology of caregiving through the work of Eva Feder Kittay and Emmanuel Lévinas. I argue that caregiving is a material dialectic of embodied response involving moments of leveling, attention, and interruption. In this light, the Levinasian opposition between responding to another's singularity and leveling it via parity-based principles is belied in the experience of care. Contra much of response ethics’ and care ethics’ respective literatures, this dialectic suggests that they are complementary in ways that productively illuminate themes of each. I conclude by suggesting that when response and care ethics are thought together through the experience of caregiving, such labors produce finite responsibility with infinite hope.
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