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Dr. Patrick McKearney

Dr. Patrick McKearney

Research Associate, Max Planck - Cambridge Centre for Ethics, Economy and Social Change

Affiliated Lecturer, Department of Social Anthropology

By-Fellow, Churchill College


Biography:

My teaching and research sits at the intersection of conversations about the mind, care, and ethics. I focus in particular on adults with significant 'intellectual disabilities' - that is, cognitive impairments that place them in need of dedicated care throughout their lives. What are the consequences of lacking some of the crucial mental abilities we tend to take for granted in our lives and our relationships? What does adulthood mean for those who depend on the intimate care we typically associate with childhood? 

I explore these questions through comparative ethnographic research in the UK and India. My research in the UK focuses on the ethical life of a care home for adults with intellectual disabilities that is run by a Christian charity called L’Arche: the moral dilemmas of care work, the complexities of intimate relationships that go beyond the contractual, and the possibility of being becoming as an equal adult in contemporary Britain while still relying on dedicated support.

I also work with adults with intellectual disabilities and their families in South India where I am exploring how changing kinship relations open up new problems and solutions to questions about who cares for these individuals throughout their lives. 

This research forms the basis of my teaching on care, religion, dependence, disability, cognition, and ethics; and it also takes me to Kerala where I am affiliated with the Mahatma Gandhi University of Kottayam and the Kerala Council of Historical Research in Thiruvananthapuram.

Research Interests

Anthropology of Religion

Anthropology of Christianity

Medical Anthropology

Anthropology of Care

Anthropology of Disability

Intellectual and Mental Disability

Psychological Anthropology

Dependence and Welfare

Anthropology of Ethics

Moral Philosophy

The Ethics of Care

Teaching

SAN3: Anthropological Theory and Methods

Belief and the Anthropology of Christian Life

SAN5: Ethical Life and the Anthropology of the Subject

Personhood, Cognition, and Ethics

SAN13: Gender, Kinship, and Care

Disability, Dependence, and Care

Key Publications

McKearney, P. (2019).The Ability to Judge: Critique and Surprise in Theology, Anthropology, and L’Arche. Ethnos. https://doi.org/10.1080/00141844.2019.1640261

McKearney, P. (2019). The Ethics of Care. EASA Network of Ethnographic Theory. https://networkofethnographictheory.wordpress.com/2019/06/24/the-ethics-of-care/

McKearney, P. (2019). The Weight of Living: Autonomy, Care, and Responsibility for the Self. Journal of Disability and Religionhttps://doi.org/10.1080/23312521.2018.1483219

McKearney, P., & Zoanni, T. (2018). Introduction: For an Anthropology of Cognitive Disability. The 
Cambridge Journal of Anthropology36(1), 1–22.https://doi.org/10.3167/cja.2018.360102

McKearney, P. (2018). Receiving the Gift of Cognitive Disability: Recognizing Agency in the Limits of the Rational Subject. The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology,36(1), 40–60. https://doi.org/10.3167/cja.2018.360104

McKearney, P. (2017). L’Arche, Learning Disability, and Domestic Citizenship: Dependent Political Belonging in a Contemporary British City. City & Society29(2), 260–280. https://doi.org/10.1111/ciso.12126
McKearney, P. (2016). The Genre of Judgment. Journal of Religious Ethics44(3), 544–573. https://doi.org/10.1111/jore.12153