Disability Care and the Limits of Friendship

Disability Care and the Limits of Friendship



J. Tyler Campbell


This presentation was given live via Zoom at 2:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) on Wednesday, April 22.



Friendship is a common term that theologians working in disability studies use. The benchmark example for theological visions of friendship and disability is usually the L’Arche community, an international organization of group homes founded by Jean Vanier in 1964. Though the call for friendship among theological accounts of disability seem benevolent, such benevolence can hide the fact that friendship is in fact a complicated political category which calls for a more thorough definition than theologians often give. Providing care for any person is always animated by relations of vulnerability and dependency that cause asymmetrical relationships of power and influence. This project examines friendship in use among theologians as well as in the communities (specifically L’Arche) that theologians extol. After comparing and contrasting the various conceptualizations of friendship in recent works from theologians like Stanley Hauerwas, John Swinton, and Hans Reinders, I analyze the limitations of these broad definitions of friendship by highlighting the complex and difficult power dynamics between caregiver and care-receiver, and explore how the existence of this reliance complicates standard notions of friendship.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Jana M. Bennett

Primary Advisor's Department

Religious Studies


Stander Symposium project, College of Arts and Sciences

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

Disability Care and the Limits of Friendship