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Interrogating Social Ethics

A visit with Sharon Welch, Professor of Religious Studies

By LuAnne Roth
Published: - Topics: religious studies multicultural education privilege social ethics ethics

A Feminist Ethic of Risk

Topics: literature African American

As her first foray into comparative ethics, Welch recounts the origins of her book A Feminist Ethic of Risk (2000, 2nd edition): “I wrote it because one of the things I noticed, as a graduate student and then teaching at Harvard University, was how easily white middle-class people give up. At first people wouldn’t want to take a stand on an issue, whether apartheid or nuclear weapons, because they thought they didn’t know enough about it. Once they learned more about the issue, they were still unable to act, but now for a different reason—they thought the problem was too big to do anything about. I saw this as a phenomenon of cultured despair, being aware of large issues and arguing against the futility of partial efforts.” By contrast Welch learned from the work of the ethicist Katie Cannon about a type of “moral wisdom in the black women’s literary tradition,” an ethic of resisting over the long-haul in spite of seemingly overwhelming oppression, and the “confluence of spirituality and aesthetics” that sustained their activism over time.