Through an exploration of the theory of the avant-garde, this paper explores the task for nursing in the new humanities of the 21st Century. Drawing on the theory of the avant-garde in general and the work of the French philosopher Jacques Derrida in particular, it argues that nursing must always return to its basic principles, that of the human condition (humanitus). But in doing so, it must also consider its place at the table of the humanities that are undergoing profound changes in western capitalist societies both in the education and practice sectors. It is through its connection with the humanities that the notion of the avant-garde is used to introduce the concept of reconnaissance—thinking again. The purpose and usefulness of this approach for nursing lies in the argument that progress or improvement, whether it be in some aspect of care or professional issue, always involves returning to something, to think of something in a new way. Thus, although nursing still has certain issues to resolve (which I attend to below), thinking through these issues with reference to the avant-garde gives ground for optimism, towards a future that is not yet determined.
- Eternal return