Troubling Families: Who's Troubled and Why? Approaches to Inter-Cultural Dialogue.

Thursday, 14 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Jane MCCARTHY, Open University, United Kingdom
In the contemporary global world, expectations of, and direct interventions in, family lives are shaped by diverse actors, including politicians, policy makers, professionals, journalists, lobby groups, kinship and friendship networks, and family members themselves, in a range of settings, from international legislation, public media and debates, to localised face to face interactions. Who is troubled by particular family interactions and issues, and on what grounds, brings to the fore, not only structural issues of power and of varied knowledge claims from child development and brain science to psychiatric diagnoses, but also a range of assumptions and un-explicated value judgements, themselves often obscured within knowledge claims. At the same time, whether a particular family ‘trouble’, while troubling, is seen as relatively unremarkable and expectable, or as reprehensible and unacceptable, is shaped by cultural norms of what a life ‘should be’ and might be expected to be. In this paper, I will address the difficult terrain between ‘normal’ family troubles, and troubling families that may be deemed, by some, to call for interventions on behalf of their more vulnerable members. In particular, I will consider the existential dimensions of what may be found to be ‘troubling’, and whether it is possible to articulate any general frameworks or principles for inter-cultural dialogue, towards determining the ‘facts’ and the values underpinning any particular view of ‘troubling families’. My discussion will include contributions from sociology, anthropology, international law, and the feminist ethics of care.