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Competing Responsibilities

Over the past decade, my work has focused on a critical re-evaluation of the concept of responsibility.

                           It began with an examination of competing perspectives of responsibility within 21st century medical care.

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With Catherine Trundle of Victoria Univ., we formulated the new concept of “competing responsibilities” as a way of re-framing the multiple forms of responsibility that shape contemporary social life. The concept of “competing responsibilities” offers scholars a tripartite structure of responsibility that highlights the dynamic interplays between personal responsibility, care for the other, and social contract ideologies/care of the State. In our co-edited book, Competing Responsibilities as well as in subsequent, independent publications, scholars from a range of disciplines have used this concept to advance scholarly understandings of how “responsibility” is – and can be – deployed in contemporary politics. An earlier iteration of the concept appeared in Anthropological Forum.

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My book, One Blue Child, problematizes health policy reforms that focus on increasing patient self-care and personal responsibility, documenting both the benefits and drawbacks of vesting further responsibility for health into patients’ hands. It argues for the need to re-define responsibility in light of the interplay of obligations that necessarily exist between patients, families, healthcare professionals, governments, and corporations.

My work on childhood asthma suggested to me the need for a broader, critical examination of the concept of “responsibility” in light of its increasing use in neoliberal governance.

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