Annual KTS Center/Center for Nursing Philosophy Lecture

This annual center lecture series is co-organised by the Center for Nursing Philosophy, in the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing, and co-sponsored by the Center for Medical Humanities

  • Annemarie Mol (Amsterdam)
'Clean as a Good: Questions of Valuing'

ABSTRACT: What it is to value, to perform something or other as good – to judge it, to seek to improve it? These questions my small team and I are currently exploring by studying the quality clean, the ideal of cleanliness and the activity of cleaning in diverse practices, in and around Amsterdam. So far we have learned that clean is a divided good – the corona pandemic has aggravated this: the celebration of hygienic cleanliness leads to environmental pollution. Related to that, clean is a relative good: as I wash my body, I dirty the water. Oftentimes, clean is an inconclusive good: fallen leaves may be classed as ‘natural’ and okay, or rather as slippery, dangerous, and therefore dirty. Clean is also an ephemeral good: however proud you may be of your cleaning work, after some time it begs to be repeated. And clean is a strikingly sticky good, with blame, rejection, moralizing, and so on, targeting people who allegedly do not serve it. The list can be expanded. It suggests that valuing is a multifaceted engagement; an intricate soul of everyday practices.

Annemarie Mol is Professor of Anthropology of the Body at the University of Amsterdam. Trained as a philosopher and a social scientist, she has published on issues to do with bodies, technologies, materialities, caring, and eating. She is a co-editor of Complexities: Social Studies of Knowledge Practices (2002), Care in Practice: Tinkering in Clinics, Homes and Farms (2010) and On Other Terms: Interfering in Social Science English (2020) and the author of The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice (2003), The Logic of Care (2008) and Eating in Theory (2021).