Mercer Gary is a dual-title Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in Penn State's College of the Liberal Arts. Her research addresses conceptual questions in feminist ethics surrounding the normative significance of relationships in order to strengthen applied interventions in bioethics and the ethics of technology. You can find recent samples of her work in The Hastings Center Report and IJFAB: International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics. She recently served as graduate assistant in health humanities at the Penn State College of Medicine, University Park. Her dog, Teff, is a beloved co-conspirator in all these efforts.
Dissertation: “The Normative Limits of Relationality: Technoscientific Challenges to Feminist Ethics”
Project Description: It is increasingly clear that personal relationships are mediated and shaped by technological artifacts. And yet, feminist ethicists focused on the significance of relationality have yet to articulate the impact of such technological mediation for their normative ethical frameworks. My dissertation takes up three case studies that highlight the impact of emerging technologies on feminist ethical claims and reconstructs a relational framework that can accommodate them. First, through an analysis of social robots in aged care contexts, I interrogate the affective requirements of care to develop a critical understanding of care ethics that responds to critiques of existing humanistic accounts. Next, I consider telemedicine practices used to paper over care deficits in rural areas, arguing that ethical care cannot take place across great geographical and social difference. I conclude that another feminist approach is therefore necessary to attend to the forms of non-caring relation illuminated by this technology, prompting me to distinguish care ethics from relational ethics. I further explore the normative significance of these non-caring relationships through direct-to-consumer genetic testing, which exposes genetic relationships with varying levels of social significance. I argue that clarifying the scope and source of relational obligations is key to the advancement of feminist ethics.