McKearney, “The Ability to Judge”

McKearney, Patrick. (2019) “The Ability to Judge: Critique and Surprise in Theology, Anthropology, and L’Arche.” Ethnos.DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2019.1640261.

Abstract: What role does judgment play in certain kinds of critical anthropology and theology, and in attempts to bring the two disciplines together? I turn to L’Arche, a network of Christian communities in which people with ‘intellectual disabilities’ share life with the cognitively able that scholars commend as a critical alternative to our obsession with judging ability as the marker of moral worth. I describe how this evaluative stance on L’Arche failed me in trying to make sense of my own fieldwork on a L’Arche community where care-givers emphasised the abilities of those they supported all the time. By relating the surprising role that a work of theology played in helping me understand the relationship between agency and judgment in this context, I argue that critique offers an unhelpful point of intersection between anthropology and theology. I propose, instead, that we explore the role of surprise in analysis and dialogue.

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