[URBANTH-L]CFP: 'Institutions, Collaborations, Power: Workshop on Hospital Ethnography'

Rebecca Prentice rebecca24 at usa.net
Tue Aug 26 21:12:49 EDT 2008

'Institutions, Collaborations, Power: Workshop on Hospital Ethnography'
Friday 20th February, 2009

Department of Social Anthropology
University of Sussex, Brighton, UK

A recent resurgence of interest in hospital ethnography opens up fresh
opportunities for exploring the institutional dynamics of biomedical practice
both within and beyond Western societies. While medical anthropology has
conventionally focused on processes of belief, knowledge and explanation,
hospital ethnography draws attention to technical, organisational and
bureaucratic processes as sites of ongoing collaboration and interaction
between different people. Collaborations are absolutely crucial to hospital
work. While hospitals are ostensibly organised around the application of
biomedical knowledge, doctors must constantly engage with people who operate
outside biomedical paradigms and who may have very different social agendas
(e.g. managers, patients, nurses, chaplains, relatives).  In fact, hospitals
are not just scientific biomedical spaces, but are also often sites of kinship
relationships, places of worship, bureaucratic systems, and hives of political
activity. This symposium will explore hospital work as a collaborative
endeavour which involves ongoing alignment and disjuncture between radically
different social worlds. 

Questions to be addressed include: How are collaborations across different
knowledge paradigms achieved in hospital spaces? How might these relationships
be understood in contrasting ways by the different people involved? While the
term ‘collaboration’ has positive connotations with notions such as
‘community’, ‘democracy’ and ‘shared aims’, what power
relationships and processes of concealment or coercion might actually be
involved in hospital work?  How are contrasting versions of the body, disease,
and expertise constituted and maintained within these collaborative
relationships? What kinds of exchanges of technologies, food, medicines, money
or bodily substances take place in these interactions? How might the
disjunction and convergences across different knowledge paradigms, social
agendas, and relationships motivate us to rethink our understandings of
biomedical practice and our models of institutions?

This workshop will thus take the unique dynamics of hospital life as a
starting point for re-examining established social science approaches to
science, technology and medicine. Contributors will have the opportunity to
share research on hospitals both within and beyond Western contexts in order
to explore the wide variation and unique particularity of biomedical practices
across different societies. What happens to technology and expertise when they
travel? How might we study hospitals as global assemblages made up of
international and national flows of people, technology and knowledge?  What
makes a place a ‘hospital’?  Through a focus on the micro-interactions and
collaborative relationships that comprise hospital work, this workshop will
also raises questions about how hospital ethnography might enable us to
reflect critically on our own methodologies and the collaborative nature of
ethnographic research. 

This workshop, hosted by the Department of Social Anthropology, will take
place at SPRU (Science and Technology Policy Research Unit) on the University
of Sussex campus: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/anthropology/

If interested in participating, please email an abstract to Alice Street
(a.street at sussex.ac.uk) and Rebecca Prentice (r.j.prentice at sussex.ac.uk) by
September 21, 2008.

More information about the URBANTH-L mailing list