ASA12: Arts and aesthetics in a globalising world

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, 3rd-6th April 2012

(P31)

Healing arts? The arts and aesthetics of medical display

Location Convention Centre Lecture Hall-II
Date and Start Time 04 April, 2012 at 08:30

Convenors

Helen Lambert (Bristol University) email
Harish Naraindas (Jawaharlal Nehru University) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel invites contributors to reflect on the complex and changing relations between the artistic and aesthetic dimensions of healing therapies. It will explore the popular and professional 'arts' of medical practice, performance, technologies and advertising at local and global levels.

Long Abstract

Ritual practices directed at healing are often described as having aesthetic appeal; and across Asia, religious performances involving divine possession and healing rituals are often packaged and enacted for tourist consumption as examples of local cultural and artistic tradition. Among anthropologists, successful treatment has been interpreted as essentially related to the aesthetic dimensions of therapeutic practices, through the symbolic enactment of harmony designed to restore order to fractured bodies and selves. The decline of such 'traditional' modes of therapy in favour of biomedicine is frequently lamented as a form of reductionism to the material. In popular culture however, the accoutrements of science become important vehicles for repackaging therapy as modern and efficacious; the handwritten signboards of folk practitioners give way to laminated placards and medical technologies supplement the laying-on of hands for diagnosis. Conversely, images of nature and visual signifiers of ancient wisdom serve as tasteful testimonials of authenticity for new 'traditional' remedies aimed at global markets. This panel invites contributions that explore modern transformations in the relations between therapeutic interventions, 'arts' and 'aesthetics'. We interpret 'display' widely to include everyday medical practices, public performances, product marketing and material representations. Contributors may wish to focus on new varieties of therapeutic performance rebranded as 'folk art'; the essential relations between therapeutic efficaciousness and aesthetic sensibility; the shifting aesthetics of mundane clinical spaces from the contemporary shrine to the private hospital; or visual signifiers in the advertisement, marketing, display or practice of therapeutic interventions and medical products.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Waiting for the Womb: Representing Reproduction in the Infertility Clinic Waiting Room

Author: Anindita Majumdar (Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi)  email

Short Abstract

This paper analyses the infertility treatment clinic waiting room in terms of the projection of varied cultural notions regarding reproduction. The waiting room comes to be projected as the ‘face’ of the infertility clinic, and is actively used to market it. I wish to look at this space in terms of how the personnel, patients and visitors ‘perform’ within it, including acts of trespassing and subversion.

Long Abstract

This paper analyses the infertility treatment clinic waiting room in terms of the projection of varied cultural notions regarding reproduction. By pandering to both Indian notions of childlessness as a stigma, and endorsing biomedical interventions in reversing it--the waiting room becomes the symbol of secrecy and cure.

Anthropological studies of clinics and clinical spaces have looked at how the medical 'gaze' penetrates and registers its dominance over non-practitioners. The waiting room of clinics and hospitals are often the source of this medical gaze.

During my fieldwork on commercial gestational surrogacy in ART (assisted reproductive technologies) clinics in Northern India, I find that the waiting room is used to 'display' the clinic. Thus, the display board is used for both advertising and legitimacy. Legitimacy also comes from: the number of occupants, and the 'visual eulogies' to the specialist(s) (framed degrees, press clippings, etc.).

The study also looks at how the waiting room as a physical space is meant to mediate access and entry to the specialist and doctor. It is here that the clinic's bureaucratic structure tends to operate and makes its presence felt.

Thus the waiting room comes to be projected as the 'face' of the ART clinic, and is actively used to market it. Drawing from Goffman, I wish to look at this space in terms of how the personnel, patients and visitors 'perform' within it, including acts of trespassing and subversion.

Art of creating designer babies through ART

Author: Sunita Reddy (Jawaharlal Nehru University)  email

Short Abstract

Looking at Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) in Hyderabad, this paper addresses, how surrogacy, through the innovations in genomic knowledge and techno-science is countering gender stereotypes, patriarchy, contesting traditional family structures, forming newer forms of relationships and yet having serious implications of possible incestuous marriages.

Long Abstract

Science and technology has blended into a fine 'art' of creating 'designer' babies on the 'canvas' of the IVF clinics through Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART). In this globalized world, a couple from any one part of the world can 'produce' rather than 'reproduce' a baby, with the help of master artists; doctors and embryologists. Alike theatre, where there are many actors who are enacting their roles to see the grand finale 'baby', surrounded by secrecy, planning and procedures. Both the families of commissioned couples and surrogates, have hopes, aspirations and desperation but of different kind, coming together to exchange their mutual scarcities and abundance of 'babies' and 'finances'.

The demand for ART and reproductive tourism in India are for various reasons; cost differentials, legality, fewer regulations, state of art technologies and medical expertise. The demand for surrogate services has created unique forms of networks of people, groups, institutions and interesting processes to serve the demands of commissioning parents; a biological child. The paper is based on ethnographic research in Hyderabad, capital of Andhra Pradesh, India. It addresses, how surrogacy, through the innovations in genomic knowledge and techno-science is countering gender stereotypes, patriarchy, contesting traditional family structures, forming newer forms of relationships and yet having serious implications like possible incestuous marriages. In the post modern world, characterized by different groups, different moral outlooks, different relationships, appropriate social and legal response is to be formulated that can respond across the geographical, religious and cultural boundaries. The question is, is it Possible?

Of Medical Specialities and Spaces: The Therapeutic Aesthetics of Renal Transplantation

Author: Sinjini Mukherjee (Heidelberg University)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper, I will present a description of the different medical spaces involved in renal (kidney) therapy and how they combine to provide relief to patients by specifically situating the analysis within a framework of the aesthetics of location, therapy and the body.

Long Abstract

The diagnosis and treatment of renal (kidney) failure predominantly takes place in the Nephrology department of the super-speciality hospital in Delhi. But, conclusive decisions regarding the extent of the disease or the course of management can only be taken by collaborating with specialists from other departments of the hospital. The diagnostic process follows a strict chronological sequence of events and calls for the participation of other spaces such as the biochemistry and histopathology laboratories. Once a diagnosis has been reached, yet other spaces are called into play such as the operating theatre (OT) and the in-patient ward. Each of these spaces mandates a specific kind of aesthetics in terms of both, the physical settings of the locations and the medical protocols that are followed in these diverse locations. On another level, in the case of renal failure, the spatial boundaries of bodies are redrawn, be it in the form of the detoxification of blood with the help of a dialysis machine or the movement of an organ from one body to another. The fistula (vascular access connecting an artery to a vein) in the case of the former and the surgical scar (for both recipients and donors) in the case of the latter becomes emblematic of an alternative aesthetics of the body. In this paper I will present a detailed description of the different spaces and aesthetics involved in renal therapy and how they come together to provide relief to patients suffering from renal failure.

The sybaritic as therapeutic: The therapeutic pleasures of art and architecture in German rehabilitative medicine

Author: Harish Naraindas (Jawaharlal Nehru University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper questions the tacit assumption that healing and pleasure are invariably opposed categories by examining the central place that art, aesthetics and architecture occupy in German Rehabilitative Medicine.

Long Abstract

This paper questions the tacit assumption that healing and pleasure are invariably opposed categories by examining the central place that art, aesthetics and architecture occupy in German Rehabilitative Medicine. Based on an ethnography of a Reha (rehabilitation) Klinik (hospital) in Germany, it delineates how the very architecture of the Klinik, situated between a mountain park (Kur Park) and a Therme (hot spring), functions as a symbolic, pleasurable and therapeutic resource. Here the symbolic and the pleasurable, rather than being either accidental or an unintended fall out, are self consciously mobilised and are central to therapeutic efficacy. Through a description and analysis of the German 'Reha', which is part of orthodox (bio)medicine in the German context, the paper will invite us to rethink the relationship between the healing arts and aesthetics. It will ask whether the aesthetics of appeal - visual, aural, bodily, psychic or moral - often seen as being superfluous or a ruse, and usually confined to the margins of healing, rather than the serious business of curing, needs to be rethought.

Exploring self-healing process through expressive art work in children with brain tumor: An ethnography method

Author: Pei-Fan Mu (National Yang-Ming University)  email

Short Abstract

The purpose of this study was using ethnography method to explore the mechanism of self healing process throughout the expressive art work. Six school-age children with malignant brain tumor were participated into this study. Throughout the motor intentionality process, children transfer self into object, they aware and understand their own feeling, as well as continuously explore their new self. The essence of self is the fundamental base of self healing. During the expressive art work, motor intentionality lead children to aware their internal experience toward integrating their self healing. By participant observation and pathography, the data were collected. The interpretive ethnography analysis method was used to explore the self-healing process. As a result of the research, four phases emerged: activate self awareness of illness, find a self healing direction in chaos, knowing self body and notice Being, and actualization of Being. This finding explores a self-healing process by using expressive art work, as well as provides an example by using ethnography method to explore a art healing process.

Long Abstract

The purpose of this study was using ethnography method to explore the mechanism of self healing process throughout the expressive art work. Six school-age children with malignant brain tumor were participated into this study. Throughout the motor intentionality process, children transfer self into object, they aware and understand their own feeling, as well as continuously explore their new self. The essence of self is the fundamental base of self healing. During the expressive art work, motor intentionality lead children to aware their internal experience toward integrating their self healing. By participant observation and pathography, the data were collected. The interpretive ethnography analysis method was used to explore the self-healing process. As a result of the research, four phases emerged: activate self awareness of illness, find a self healing direction in chaos, knowing self body and notice Being, and actualization of Being. This finding explores a self-healing process by using expressive art work, as well as provides an example by using ethnography method to explore a art healing process.

Using the Therapeutic Arts in Research

Author: Susan Hogan (University of Derby)  email

Short Abstract

The Representing Self - Representing Ageing initiative has been funded by the ESRC as part of the New Dynamics of Ageing cross-council research programme. It has consisted of four projects with older women using visual research methods, and participatory approaches, to enable women to articulate their experiences of ageing, and to create alternative images of ageing. Complex research processes are interrogated. Innovative methods have included the use of art elicitation, photo-diaries, film-booths, and phototherapy.

Long Abstract

The Representing Self - Representing Ageing initiative has been funded by the ESRC as part of the New Dynamics of Ageing cross-council research programme. It has consisted of four projects with older women using visual research methods, and participatory approaches, to enable women to articulate their experiences of ageing, and to create alternative images of ageing. Complex research processes are interrogated. Innovative methods have included the use of art elicitation, photo-diaries, film-booths, and phototherapy. This paper will articulate the methods used, with particular reference to the art elicitation group (which drew on interactive art therapy) and the phototherapy group. The pros and cons of using these methods in participatory research will be articulated.

Professor Susan Hogan is author of 'Healing Arts: The History of Art Therapy' as she has recently written a series of papers exploring the contribution of art therapy to visual ethnography (with Sarah Pink) and to participatory research (with Lorna Warren).

Therapeutic iconography: Visual imagery in a marginal medical tradition

Author: Helen Lambert (Bristol University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper analyses the medical iconography used by north Indian ‘bone doctors’ (haad vaidya) to represent and advertise their work.

Long Abstract

This paper analyses the medical iconography used by north Indian 'bone doctors' (haad vaidya) to represent and advertise their work. Drawing on a study of 30 practices in urban Rajasthan, I examine the iconography of bonesetting as displayed in the public advertisements and business cards used by practitioners, as well as the visual displays and material spaces of their treatment settings. Prevalent 'traditional' iconography links bone doctoring with wrestling prowess and an indexical relation between visual image and therapeutic form is premised on the assumption of an illiterate clientele. Other representational displays employ visual imagery associated with particular biomedical technologies of the body to establish the contemporaneity of practices that do not, in fact, employ such technologies. The aesthetics of clinical spaces are undergoing similar reconfiguration to achieve a more identifiably 'sanitary' appeal. The paper seeks to situate exploration of practices that are marginal to the formal health system in an emerging gap between indexical and symbolic aspects of therapeutic imagery associated with bone doctoring.

Shrubs, Seeds and Foxskulls: The art of Narikuravar folk healing

Author: Gabriele Alex (University of Tuebingen)  email

Short Abstract

This paper deals with the healing practice of a formerly peripatetic South Indian community, called Narikuravar. It describes and illustrates the modes and contents of the healers’ performance and marketing and investigates how these different aesthetic and artistic elements are linked to the therapeutic dialogue.

Long Abstract

This paper deals with the healing practice of a formerly peripatetic South Indian community, called Narikuravar. This community looks back on a long tradition of healing and fortunetelling, over the last decades the healing practice has changed due to an altered health geography in India as well as to new market mechanisms. Whereas for centuries the Narikuravar healers operated as wandering mendicants today they treat patients from elaborately decorated healer shops, which are organised in the fashion of a doctor's practice, and they advertise their services through the media, e.g through local TV channels. Even though a considerable number of these healers have started to attend Siddha or Ayurveda courses on the private education market and have further adapted and borrowed elements from other healing practices and traditions, the self-representation of these healers stresses the inherited traditional character of their skills as well as their strong connection to the forces of nature by drawing on images from a romanticised past. These self-representations follow partly a trend of reification of tradition and folklore that can be found all over India, other parts of these performances and advertisement strategies build on classical Tamil concepts of aesthetics, as for example brought forward in the Sangam literature. This paper describes and illustrates the modes and contents of the healers' performance and marketing and investigates how these different aesthetic and artistic elements are linked to the therapeutic dialogue.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.