How Is It Between Us?

Relational Ethics and Care for the World

By Jarrett Zigon


Jarrett Zigon’s groundbreaking How Is It Between Us? puts anthropology and phenomenological hermeneutics in conversation to develop a new theory of relational ethics. This ethics takes place in the between, the interaction not just between people, but all existents. Importantly, this theory is utilized as a framework for considering some of today’s most pressing ethical concerns – for example, living in a condition of post-truth and in worlds increasingly driven by algorithms and data extraction, various and competing calls for justice, and the ethical demands of the climate crisis. Written by one of the preeminent contributors to the anthropology of ethics, this book proposes a robust and systematic ethical theory to better address contemporary ethical problems.


How Is It Between Us? provides a vital intervention into the limits of existing ethical theories through a careful rethinking of the conditions that have radically transformed our possibilities for existing in the contemporary world. This is without a doubt one of the most important books on ethics to have been published in the last decade or more.”

C. Jason Throop, author of Suffering and Sentiment: Exploring the Vicissitudes of Experience and Pain in Yap

“How is it between us? Not great, as Zigon reminds us. But in an era of climate disaster, data mining, and algorithmic policing, this book offers a series of thoughtful reflections on the meaning and practice of relational ethics, shifting our attention from the moral status of individual subjects to the worldly texture of the between.”

Lisa Guenther, author of Solitary Confinement: Social Death and its Afterlives and The Gift of the Other: Levinas and the Politics of Reproduction

“Over the past two decades Jarrett Zigon has been developing an influential approach to the study of ethics grounded in anthropological and phenomenological thought. Many scholars working at the intersection of the social sciences and philosophy have called for a relational ethics. In this book we finally have one that is genuinely original, grounded in rigorous argument, and elegantly presented. Those who have been following Zigon’s work will want to read this, and for those who are new to it, this is now the place to start.”

Joel Robbins, author of Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society


Jarrett Zigon is the William & Linda Porterfield Chair in Bioethics and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Virginia. He is the author of several books, including A War on People: Drug User Politics and a New Ethics of Community, Disappointment: Toward a Critical Hermeneutics of Worldbuilding, and HIV Is God’s Blessing: Rehabilitating Morality in Neoliberal Russia

© HAU Books, 2024

5″ x 8″, 130 pp.

Buy this book from The University of Chicago Press

Download PDF


1: How is it between us?

2: Truth, Thinking, Ethics

3: Justice (considered relationally)

4: What is data (ethics)?

5: Ethics beyond the human