Critical Posthuman Nursing Care

Bodies Reborn and the Ethical Imperative for Composting




critical posthumanism, feminist new materialism, compost collaborative, affirmative ethics, COVIDicene


Nursing care is an embodied and co-creative world-building practice made hypervisible in pandemic times. A traditional praxis that became a professionalized care practice, nursing bares the indelible mark of the ideologies that have come to shape the discipline like whiteness, patriarchy, and capitalism to name a few. Embracing a critical feminist posthuman and new materialist perspective, in this paper we advance the notion that nursing care is a situated and embodied endeavor that cannot and should not be disconnected from sites of care, people receiving care, and the powers that structure care relations. Even in idealised contexts, nursing care is shaped by the confines of these forces. We tease out ideas that have molded nursing across time and within the epoch of the Covid pandemic. We draw upon imaginations from Arundhati Roy that the pandemic is a portal, an opportunity for rebirth. Care practices are proposed with a critical posthuman perspective, in the spirit of Haraway’s idea of composting. Composting is used metaphorically as actions to morph and decay the boundaries beyond traditional notions of care based in humanism. We imagine this in an effort to rethink what worlds we want to co-produce, a call to action where care can be revisioned as an arena where nurses, people, all matter, all creatures and worlds are co-created.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Jane Hopkins Walsh, Boston College

PhD candidate, Boston College


Brandon Blaine Brown, University of Vermont

Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing, College of Nursing and Health Sciences

Jamie Smith, Charite Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Research Associate

Eva Willis, Charite Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Research Associate


Adam, S., Juergensen, L., & Mallette, C. (2021). Harnessing the power to bridge different worlds: An introduction to posthumanism as a philosophical perspective for the discipline. Nursing Philosophy, 22(3), e12362.

Alaimo, S. (2010). Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self (Illustrated edition). Indiana University Press.

American Nurses Association. (2016). Historical Review.

Andrist, L. (2006). The History of the Relationship Between Feminism and Nursing. In L. C. Andrist, P. Nicholas, & K. Wolf (Eds.), A History of Nursing Ideas (pp. 5–22). Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Bacon, F. (1900). New Atlantis. Cambridge University Press.

Bell, B. (2020). White dominance in nursing education: A target for anti-racist efforts. Nursing Inquiry, n/a(n/a), e12379.

Bilefsky, D. (2021, October 5). Coroner Finds Racism Played Part in Indigenous Woman’s Death. The New York Times.

Boudreau Morris, K. (2017). Decolonizing solidarity: Cultivating relationships of discomfort. Settler Colonial Studies, 7(4), 456–473.

Braidotti, R. (2013). The Posthuman. Polity.

Braidotti, R. (2019). Posthuman knowledge. Polity.

Braidotti, R. (2020). “We” Are In This Together, But We Are Not One and the Same. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, 17(4), 465–469.

Chakrabarty, D. (2021). The Climate of History in a Planetary Age. University of Chicago Press.

Clark/Keefe, K. (2010). Invoking Mnemosyne: A Art, Memory, and the Uncertain Emergence of a Feminist Embodied Methodology. Sense Publishers.

Cook, S. E. T. (1914). The Life of Florence Nightingale: 1862-1910. Macmillan.

De Sousa, I., & Varcoe, C. (2021). Centering Black feminist thought in nursing praxis. Nursing Inquiry.

Deleuze, G. (1995). The Exhausted (A. Uhlmann, Trans.). SubStance, 24(3), 3–28.

Dillard-Wright, J. (2021). A radical imagination for nursing: Generative insurrection, creative resistance. Nursing Philosophy, n/a(n/a), e12371.

Dillard-Wright, J., & Shields-Haas, V. (2021). Nursing With the People: Reimagining Futures for Nursing. Advances in Nursing Science, 44(3), 195–209.

Dillard-Wright, J., Walsh, J. H., & Brown, B. B. (2020). We Have Never Been Nurses: Nursing in the Anthropocene, Undoing the Capitalocene. Advances in Nursing Science, 43(2), 132–146.

Dock, L., & Stewart, I. (1938). A Short History of Nursing: From the Earliest Times to the Present Day (4th ed.). G. P. Putnam Sons.

DuBois, E. C. (1991). Woman Suffrage and the Left: An International Socialist-Feminist Perspective. New Left Review, 186, 20–45.

Duffy, M. (2011). Making Care Count: A Century of Gender, Race, and Paid Care Work. Rutgers University Press.

Ehrenreich, B., & English, D. (2010). Witches, midwives, & nurses: A history of women healers. Feminist Press.

Enloe, C. (2021). Femininity and the Paradox of Trust Building in Patriarchies during COVID-19. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 47(1), 3–10.

Ferrando, F. (2019). Philosophical Posthumanism. Bloomsbury Academic.

Fontenot, J., & McMurray, P. (2020). Decolonizing entry to practice: Reconceptualizing methods to facilitate diversity in nursing programs. Teaching and Learning in Nursing, 15(4), 272–279.

Foucault, M. (2012). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Vintage.

Geister, J. M., & Thompson, J. M. (1954). The Equal Rights Amendment. The American Journal of Nursing, 54(4), 469–471.

Gilligan, C. (1983). In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Harvard University Press.

Group, T. M., & Roberts, J. I. (2001). Nursing, Physician Control, and the Medical Monopoly: Historical Perspectives on Gendered Inequality in Roles, Rights, and Range of Practice. Indiana University Press.

Haraway, D. (2004). The Haraway reader. Routledge.

Haraway, D. (2016). Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press.

Hine, D. C. (1989). Black Women in White: Racial Conflict and Cooperation in the Nursing Profession, 1890-1950. Indiana University Press.

hooks, bell. (1991). Theory as Liberatory Practice. Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, 4, 1.

Hopkins Walsh, J., & Dillard-Wright, J. (2020). The case for “structural missingness:” A critical discourse of missed care. Nursing Philosophy, 21(1), 1–12.

Jackson, Z. I. (2020). Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World (Vol. 53). New York University Press.

Jenkins, D., Burton, C., & Holmes, D. (2021). (Re)defining nursing leadership: On the importance of parrhèsia and subversion. Journal of Nursing Management, jonm.13520.

Klein, N. (2007). The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Macmillan.

Lloyd, G. (1994). Part of Nature: Self-Knowledge in Spinoza’s “Ethics.” In Part of Nature. Cornell University Press.

Lloyd, G. (1996). Reason, Science, and the Domination of Matter. In Feminism & Science (pp. 41–52). Oxford University Press.

Mbembe, A. (2019). Necropolitics (M. Tauch, Trans.). Duke University Press.

McPherson, D. (2021). The Virtue of Piety in Medical Practice. Philosophia, 49(3), 923–931.

Merchant, C. (2006). The Scientific Revolution and The Death of Nature. Isis, 97(3), 513–533.

Millett, K. (2016). Sexual Politics. Columbia University Press.

Moore, J. (2016). The Rise of Cheap Nature. In Anthropocene or capitalocene: Nature, history, and the crisis of capitalism (pp. 78–115). Kairos Books.

Murphy, D. (2020). Directly addressing the issue of racial equity in our facilities [Press Release].

Nightingale, F. (1863). Sanitary statistics of native colonial schools and hospitals. London : [George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode].

Noddings, N. (2013). Caring: A Relational Approach to Ethics and Moral Education (Second Edition, Updated). University of California Press.

Paquette, E. (2021). Autopoietic Systems: Organizing Cellular and Political Spaces. Radical Philosophy Review, 24(1), 1–19.

Peggy L. Chinn. (1982). What’s In Our Name? Cassandra Radical Feminist Nurses Newsletter, 1(1), 3–5. Peggy Chinn, personal electronic archive.

Perron, A., Rudge, T., & Gagnon, M. (2020). Hypervisible Nurses: Effects of Circulating Ignorance and Knowledge on Acts of Whistleblowing in Health. Advances in Nursing Science, 43(2), 114–131.

Peters, M. A. (2019). The enlightenment and its critics 1. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 51(9), 886–894.

Plumwood, V. (1993). Feminism and the mastery of nature. Routledge.

Prescod-Weinstein, C. (2020). Making Black Women Scientists under White Empiricism: The Racialization of Epistemology in Physics. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 45(2), 421–447.

Price, A. L. (1965). Art, Science and Spirit of Nursing. Saunders.

Puig de la Bellacasa, M. (2017). Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in More than Human Worlds (3rd ed. edition). Univ Of Minnesota Press.

Rabelais, E., & Walker, R. K. (2021). Ethics, health disparities, and discourses in oncology nursing’s research: If we know the problems, why are we asking the wrong questions? Journal of Clinical Nursing, 30(5–6), 892–899.

Robb, I. H. (2017). Nursing Ethics: For Hospitals and Private Use. Trieste.

Rose, D. B. (2012). Multispecies Knots of Ethical Time. Environmental Philosophy, 9(1), 127–140.

Ross, J. (2020). The Exacerbation of Burnout During COVID-19: A Major Concern for Nurse Safety. Journal of PeriAnesthesia Nursing, 35(4), 439–440.

Roy, A. (2020, April 3). The Pandemic is a Portal.

Sandelowski, M. (2000). Devices and Desires: Gender, Technology, and American Nursing. University of North Carolina Press.

Seacole, M. (2019). Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands. Dover Thrift Editions.

Showalter, E. (1981). Florence Nightingale’s Feminist Complaint: Women, Religion, and “Suggestions for Thought.” Signs, 6(3), 395–412.

Smith, K. M., & Foth, T. (2021). Tomorrow is cancelled: Rethinking nursing resistance as insurrection. Aporia, 13(1), 15–25.

Smith & Willis. (2020). Interpreting Posthumanism with Nurse Work. Journal of Posthuman Studies, 4(1), 59.

Stake-Doucet, N. (2020, November 5). The Racist Lady with the Lamp. Nursing Clio.

Tamale, S. (2020). Decolonization and Afro-feminism. Daraja Press.

Thorne, S. (2021). Slow death by policy manual. Nursing Inquiry, 28(3), e12442.

Tobbell, D. A. (2018). Nursing’s Boundary Work: Theory Development and the Making of Nursing Science, ca. 1950–1980. Nursing Research, 67(2), 63–73.

Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1(1).

Waite, R., & Nardi, D. (2019). Nursing colonialism in America: Implications for nursing leadership. Journal of Professional Nursing, 35(1), 18–25.

Wynter, S. (2015). Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis (K. McKittrick, Ed.). Duke University Press Books.



How to Cite

Hopkins Walsh, J., Dillard-Wright, J., Brown, B. B., Smith, J., & Willis, E. (2022). Critical Posthuman Nursing Care: Bodies Reborn and the Ethical Imperative for Composting. Witness: The Canadian Journal of Critical Nursing Discourse, 4(1), 16–35.