Spectrality and thanatic ethics of care in Atlantique and Biutiful

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Although the gendered response to moral problems articulated by Carol Gilligan in her 1982 book In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development – which heralded the area of study that came to be known as care ethics – has become passé, the binary approach to moral problems where one response is based on emotion and connection, whereas the other is based on autonomy from others and justice and fairness, has remained. While some scholars have called for the integration of these approaches, others have come to question dominant liberal forms of political care such as humanitarianism and welfare. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown and Woodly have called for a new politics of care for the twenty-first century. This kind of refashioning dismantles the care–justice binary and even troubles the meaning of justice by thinking care and justice together. My purpose in this essay is to see what this binary at the heart of care ethics and the new ways of looking at care ethics have to offer to migration studies. Through a reading of two films, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 2010 film Biutiful and Mati Diop’s 2019 film Atlantique, I suggest that both these films use spectrality to provide a critique of regimes of care in migration and offer alternative models which I call a thanatic ethics of care. By proposing an alternative, “thanatic” ethics of migrant care through the use of spectrality, both films offer newer models of care not based on feminine virtue or racial hierarchies but rather on dismantling care–justice binaries and seeing the world in new ways through relationality and responsiveness. Copyright © 2023 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-213
Issue number1
Early online dateMar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2024


Banerjee, B. (2024). Spectrality and thanatic ethics of care in Atlantique and Biutiful. Interventions, 26(1), 195-213. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369801X.2023.2190914


  • Atlantique
  • Biutiful
  • Diop
  • Mati
  • Ethics of care
  • Iñárritu
  • Alejandro González
  • Spectrality


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