A Space for Others: Exploring Cognitive Urban Geography With Ethics of Care, Concern and Empathy in Affective Social Networks in Geneva
In the mid 90s, a joint enterprise from the Institute of British Geographers and the American Association of Geographers called for unveiling and exploring the various aspects of the subtle relationship that exists between geography and ethics. Bridging over the Atlantic, a group of Anglo-Saxon geographers lead by J. Proctor and D.M. Smith pointed out the necessity to further develop the bounds between the study of space and moral philosophy. Questions were directly addressed in the beginning of 1997 through the first volume of Philosophy and Geography: Ethics, Place and Environment, concerned with the uprising attention brought to environmental changes. This contribution was only briefly later continued in Progress in Human Geography. Within this initiative, which further developments quickly felt short in the years 2000 to the profit of other research interests, the notion of care had been pointed out as key to approach what was regarded as both an epistemological and ontological challenge for geography. First developed in the 1980's by philosophers C. Gilligan and J. Tronto as a feministic approach to ethics, the notion of care became increasingly central to a whole set of disciplines concerned with the central role of woman as care givers. However, today, with the emerging of the postfeminist critic, the sense given to the notion of care tends to shift from 'taking care of' to 'caring about'. Through this shift, I suggest the possibility to approach a spatial understanding of the social bounds individuals maintain throughout their youth—binding in kinfolks, friends, acquaintances and strangers—in a sole field of affect, cognitively linking themselves to a World shaped by care, concern and empathy. The relationship between care, spatial practices, degree of urbanity and level of exposure to otherness are then revealed in an ethnographic fieldwork using friendship as a method, and recurrent interviews with actors of this affect-based network.