ASA2016: Footprints and futures: the time of anthropology

(P53)
Querying the body multiple: enactment, encounters and ethnography
Location Science Site/Chemistry CG91
Date and Start Time 05 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 3

Convenor

  • Mwenza Blell (University of Bristol) email

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Chair Salla Sariola (University of Oxford)

Short Abstract

This panel explores the notion of body multiple and its implications.

Long Abstract

The body and embodiment have been central to anthropological literature, exploring the ways in which communities and individuals live in their bodies. It is argued that different human bodies are enacted, that is, imagined and formed, in different contexts by different actors. Recently, for example Annmarie Mol, Judith Farquhar, and Margaret Lock have argued that rather than there being a universal, singular, body, the body is better thought of as body multiple. Indeed, this literature points to connections and overlaps with other people and non-humans, suggesting that embodiment is a collective process. In order to understand how this multiplicity is enacted, one has to appreciate that there are various practices of self care (for example, including body modification and enhancement), socio-political structuring (affecting, for example, access to food and healthcare), and scientific practices (for example, diagnostic testing and body measurement), among others, which all come to bear in this multiplication. Anthropologists from different sub-disciplines have unique and important contributions to make in this potentially greater overall understanding of the body and embodiment. It would help to explain the observed heterogeneity in approaches to the human body conceptually as well as for the implications of scientific and medical application. The panel aims to explore the notion of the body multiple using ethnographic contributions from a range of contexts. Contributions are invited from anthropologists of any sub-discipline interested in these ideas.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Bringing back physiological birth? How midwifery units seek to re-enscript embodiment in the management of childbirth

Authors: Christine McCourt (City University London)  email
Jane Sandall (Women’s Health Academic Centre)  email
Susanna Rance (King's College London; Plymouth University)  email
Juliet Rayment (City University London)  email

Short Abstract

Based on two ethnographic studies of midwifery units, this paper draws out how the embodiment is purposefully re-scripted and played out in everyday practices and the formal design and stated philosophies in order to re-establish ‘active birth’ in place of ‘active management of birth’.

Long Abstract

Midwifery units are more commonly known, in a range of countries as birth centres, and in some as 'home-from-home birth centres or birth-houses. They provide birth care to women who are categorised as having a healthy pregnancy without complications and can be remote from a hospital (Freestanding Midwifery Unit - FMU) or Alongside an obstetric hospital unit (AMU). The aims, material design and philosophy of such units are designed to underpin practices which support physiological birth, as well as, in some, a more social model of birth. Our studies of their operation suggest that this involves a process of re-scripting of the embodiment of what had become a more medicalised process where the bodies of women and midwives were framed in a more passive or defensive role. A regime of 'active management' of labour, which privileged technological interventions over the woman's body as active in giving birth is replaced in this 'active birth' model with a physiological management approach where the main agent is the 'woman in the body'. The midwives' embodiment in the form of manual skills and sensory observation techniques combined with low-technology interventions are used to facilitate rather than to 'actively manage' childbirth. Drawing on two ethnographic studies, we describe the evidence from observations of practices and environment and interviews with professionals and women and their birth partners to draw out how the theme of embodiment is purposefully re-scripted and played out in everyday practices as well as through the formal design and philosophies of midwifery units.

Counting encounters in the clinic: patients, doctors, administrators and researchers in a primary care RCT

Author: Mwenza Blell (University of Bristol)  email

Short Abstract

Some patients attend their physician more than others for a given state of health. Where provision of health care is the responsibility of a state in austerity, this is considered a problem. These patients are enacted by health care staff and researchers differently at different times during an RCT.

Long Abstract

In the UK's socialised primary health care system some patients are considered to be overusers of the health service, attending more frequently than their health status would indicate is necessary. This paper considers the multiple, overlapping and competing ways of enacting this patient group within an ongoing cluster randomised controlled trial. At the outset of the trial, this group was considered by clinicians, researchers, reception and administrative staff alike to pre-exist the trial's identification process and to be consulting their physicians in a way which simultaneously risks their own physical and mental health and causes problems of equity. Frequently attending patients were considered to need an intervention aiming to dissuade them from attending. Physicians and researchers reinterpreted encounters with patients and the patients' reported embodied experiences in line with the fact that these patients already potentially being identified to be 'frequent flyers' in mind. At the same time the patient group were regarded as potentially having bothersome clinically inexplicable symptoms and a right to access their primary care physicians. Confidence about the patient category and the importance of dissuading patients from attending was observed to be less stable when lists of these patients had to be created after reviewing medical records and when physicians considered discussing the decision to place patients on the list with the patients themselves. The paper considers the role of doctors and healthcare administrators in enacting the bodies of their patients through a range of interactions and the role of trial researchers in this process.

Ageing bodies on trial

Authors: Marie Haulund Otto (University of Copenhagen)  email
Tiago Moreira (Durham University)  email

Short Abstract

We give ethnographic accounts of how healthy ageing bodies are enacted in a clinical trial. The clinical trial generates three types of ageing bodies: disciplined or docile healthy ageing bodies; bodies in excess of the somatic qualities produced by the clinical trial; and other, unknowable bodies.

Long Abstract

Usually defined as the 'process of optimizing opportunities for physical, social and mental health' so as to support older people's participation in society, healthy ageing has been the object of social science critiques for its narrow economic discursive and normative framing. Less attention however has been focused on the concrete production of healthy ageing bodies. In this paper we report on an ethnographic study investigating the enactment of healthy ageing bodies in a clinical trial of diet and exercise to prevent age-related muscular frailty. We draw on Law's (2004) conceptualization of the method assemblage to understand how, in the clinical trial, researchers, participants, instruments, and protocols work together to enact a diversity of ageing bodies. We propose that the clinical trial generates three types of ageing bodies: disciplined or docile healthy ageing bodies; bodies in excess of the somatic qualities produced by the clinical trial; and other, unknowable bodies. Focusing on the embodied tensions and constant tinkering within the production of active and healthy ageing, we also how explore how the clinical trial problematizes and disrupts other bodies, practices and effects. We suggest that this analysis serves as a window to understand the complex relationship between healthy ageing ideals and the health practices of older people.

Chinoiserie medicine: biopower and orientalism

Author: Tyler Phan (University College London)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores Chinese medicine in the United States whereby much medicine is informed by a Western interpretation of how bodies are seen and treated in China. With the support of State power, these interpretations would serve as the template for the education and practice within the United States.

Long Abstract

Derived from the European projection of Chinese artistic motifs, the term "Chinoiserie" exemplifies an aesthetic of interpretation and imitation. In the United States, the transmission and practice of Chinese medicine consists, similarly, of Western gaze of Chinese medicine bodies, which is performed through the processes of interpretation and imitation. Yet, these processes also include the agency of biopower.

This paper examines the encounter with Chinese Medicine in the United States, which has often hidden behind tropes of its exoticism and alleged 2,000-year-old legacy. It interrogates the history of Chinese medicine in the United States, which was once a practice of the Chinese diaspora, but through the acclaim and legal regulation of acupuncture, transitioned to a mostly white-dominated medical practices constructed reminiscent to the imagination of Chinoiserie. Here, imagination becomes reality through the process of an Orientalised Biopower whereby the medical profession literally labels itself "Oriental" but also garners support from State power to view and treat bodies.

Informed by a multi-sited cross-country ethnography in the United States, much of the information in this paper was derived from interviews of key figures as well as observation of schools within the profession. The paper draws from postcolonial studies; however, instead of Edward Said's Orientalism, which relates more to Europe, the focus concentrates around the concept of American Orientalism.

Embodying differences: ideas and discourses on albinism in global Tanzania

Author: Giorgio Brocco (Freie Universität Berlin)  email

Short Abstract

The present paper aims to analyze multiple discourses, ideas, practices and conceptualizations surrounding albinism at local level and the ways they are embodied and managed by people with albinism themselves in the wake of humanitarian interventions.

Long Abstract

From mid-2000s onward, international attention started to be drawn to the murders of people with albinism in the north-western part of Tanzania. Since the increase in attention to such issues, national health organizations as well as (inter)national NGOs have begun to carry out awareness campaigns for stopping the killings throughout the country on behalf of people with albinism and have implemented humanitarian aid programs, distributing sunglasses and sunscreen, in order prevent the insurgence of skin cancer. The present paper intends to analyze the many ways in which hypopigmented bodies of people with albinism are conceptualized in Tanzania. The examination aims to shed light on discourses, ideas and conceptualizations surrounding albinism at local level and the ways they are embodied and managed by people with albinism themselves. Particular emphasis will be given to multiple "traditional" perceptions, religious ideas, (bio)medical explanations and humanitarian actions about albinism and how they have determined the social position of people with albinism within the society. Such multiplicity of explanations is strictly intertwined with, on the one hand, the global flow of ideas and information brought to Tanzania by NGOs and governmental organizations, and, on the other, existing "traditional"/religious conceptions about albinism at local level. In this regard, the body and the skin of these individuals can be conceived as the surface in which heterogeneous discourses on and practices of albinism interact, conflagrate and intertwine and epitomize social structures and scientific knowledge.

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The body multiple, collective embodiment and spiritual power in Rastafari

Author: Anna Waldstein (University of Kent)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores how the concept of body multiple contributes to an understanding of spiritual power and the body. Specifically, it examines Rastafari bodily practices that are aimed at achieving certain spiritual objectives, at times through collective embodiment with other beings.

Long Abstract

In Rastafari, there are a number of spiritual practices that effect forms of collective embodiment with other beings (e.g. Haile Selassie I, the lion, sacred herbs). Rastafari is a spiritual, social, political and environmental movement that began in 1930s Jamaica and has since spread throughout African diaspora communities around the world. In their struggle to achieve the main political aims of the movement (repatriation of diaspora peoples to the African continent and other reparations for the trans-Atlantic slave trade) Rastafari people generally follow a number of spiritual prescriptions related to the body. Much of my work with Rastafari in the United Kingdom over the past few years has been concerned with the question of whether Rastafari bodies can do things that other bodies cannot do and if so, how such spiritual bodies (cf. McPhee 2003) are cultivated. The most significant Rastafari bodily practices include smoking (especially Cannabis spp.), meditating, growing matted hair, eating an Afro-centric vegan diet and drumming/chanting. A person does not have to do all of these things to be Rastafari, rather they are a means to achieve specific spiritual objectives, namely immortality, intuition/divination and the manifestation of divine will on earth. This paper explores how the concept of body multiple contributes to an understanding of spiritual power and the body.

"We all know there's something in the water!": embodying conspiracy theory through an alternative body politic

Author: Nick Toseland (Durham University)  email

Short Abstract

Conspiracy theories appear to promote feelings of powerlessness. Drawing upon first-hand ethnographic research in Britain, this paper argues that fluoridation narratives actually conceptualise a positive alternative of the human body embodied through self-regulated patterns of consumption.

Long Abstract

Within networks of self-identified 'truth-seekers' - individuals often labelled pejoratively as conspiracy theorists - the perceived medical orthodoxy is frequently accused of propagating a knowingly harmful conceptualisation of the individual body. It is furthermore accused of hiding the dangers of an essentially toxic environment. For example, individuals voice concerns that medical authorities value monetary profit over cures; or that fluoridated tap-water harms body, mind, and spirit, to make entire populations unwell, docile and controllable. That 'conspiracy theories' appear dystopic and nightmarish, and imagine pervasive, state-sponsored systemic dangers that affect an entire social body, has led some commentators to claim they produce feelings of powerlessness. On the other hand, that real-life 'truth-seekers' seem often to be empowered by their beliefs presents an apparent puzzle. This paper draws upon qualitative data, including participant observation and interviews, as part of a wider ethnographic study of the social dimension of (so-called) conspiracy theorising in Britain; this moves the study of conspiracy theory away from secondary, textual sources, and sets it instead in the lifeworld of actual truth-seekers. By refocusing our attention away from the social world and onto phenomenal encounters with ubiquitous aspects of the everyday, such as water and food, this seeming contradiction can be resolved. Truth-seekers first "wake up" to a state-sponsored body politic; they reconceptualise the individual body; and they realise this phenomenally by undertaking individuated journeys of self-regulation.

Embodiment of the Divine through Sitaat in Somaliland

Author: Caroline Ackley (UCL)  email

Short Abstract

Sitaat is a religious panegyric founded on spirituality and the desire to praise and model respected women in Islam. I suggest sitaat is a practice in which women embody the divine and in turn create networks of female support to deal with the tensions of everyday life.

Long Abstract

I propose to speak about the practice of sitaat in Somaliland (Lewis 1998; Tiilikainen 2010) and explore the ways in which it serves as a means for women to embody spirituality and find networks of support in an all-female space. I will illuminate the current socio-religious context influencing sitaat and the ways in which women negotiate sometimes competing discourses of morality. Sitaat is a type of religious panegyrics founded on spirituality and the desire to praise and model respected women in Islam (Cawaale 2014, 2013; Kapteijns 1999). It facilitates for some women, a state of religious ecstasy (jibbo). Women who reach jibbo and those who simply attend can find relief from the stresses of daily life and gain support from the female community. I suggest that sitaat is a practice through which women embody the divine, whether through deeper knowledge of religious doctrine or achieving jibbo. Although this type of embodiment of the divine, in a private and female space, does not aim to directly challenge male hegemony in Somaliland society, it does facilitate networks of female support units to solve and deal with the tensions of everyday life. I intend to explore the following questions: In which ways do intimate relationships with the divine, through sitaat, cultivate morally acceptable ways to negotiate tension and conflict in every life? And, at the same time, how is the moral acceptance of this relationship with the divine in jeopardy in the current socio-religious context of Somaliland?

'Macho men' and the muscular body multiple in Ghana

Author: Gabriel Klaeger (Goethe University Frankfurt)  email

Short Abstract

Muscular and strong (male) bodies in Ghana are varyingly enacted as healthy, aesthetic, competitive, controlled, threatening yet also as undisciplined, vulnerable and thus weak bodies. In this paper I explore how muscular ‘macho men’ incorporate most strikingly the notion of the body multiple.

Long Abstract

Muscular and strong (male) bodies are enacted in multiple and at times overlapping contexts in Ghana. They are varyingly formed, performed and perceived as healthy, aesthetic, competitive, controlled, threatening yet also as undisciplined, vulnerable and thus weak bodies. In this presentation I show how the Ghanaian phenomenon of so-called 'macho men' (strong, muscular men) incorporates most strikingly the notion of the body multiple. This multiplicity comes to the fore, for instance, during specific sports events and around presidential elections. More particularly, I ethnographically explore how the bodybuilding activities of a group of young Ghanaian men are a means of working not only towards a muscular body, but also towards a mixed future, one that is entangled and envisioned with imaginations, ambitions, potentialities and possibly with violence and vulnerability.

The nationalised body: lifeworlds and embodiment of Germanness and Paraguayannes in Nueva Germania, Paraguay

Author: Jonatan Kurzwelly (University of St Andrews)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork in Nueva Germania, in Paraguay, I will present nationalism as an embodied disposition that implies contextually nationalised bodies with its social, political, sensory, and existential connotations.

Long Abstract

Nueva Germania was founded at the end of XIX century by Bernhard Förster and Elisabeth Nietzsche (Friedrich's sister), as an eugenic experiment in the wilderness of Paraguay. Fourteen German families travelled to Paraguay to take part in the creation of a racially pure colony, the intended nucleus of a new Germanic Empire. However, this ideological undertaking was quickly abandoned. Currently the local population is divided between Germans and Paraguayans, with the demarcations drawn by history, descent, language, religion, etc. These are contextually evoked or dismissed, producing contradictory notions of solidity and fluidity. In my (18 months long) research of these local denominations, discourses and daily life enactments, the concepts of national identity and ethnicity have proven to be limiting and reductive, in their traditional meaning. Drawing from ethnographic examples I will present nationalism, beyond articulated discourse, as an embodied disposition that implies contextually nationalised bodies with its social, political, sensory, and existential implications. Thereby I hope to problematize our understanding of nationalism, drawing attention to its embodied and existential aspects, and to present its contextual variability.

Injecting bodies

Author: Fay Dennis (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)  email

Short Abstract

This paper attends to the multiple bodies involved in injecting drug use, which challenges a singular account of ‘the body’ in both the addiction and public health models of understanding/responding to the practice. A wider appreciation of injecting bodies aids more responsive/responsible intervention.

Long Abstract

This paper explores the role of bodies in practices of injecting drug use (IDU). IDU in this context refers to the injection of illegal drugs, predominantly heroin and crack cocaine. I focus here on 6 months fieldwork at a London drug service and interviews with 32 people who inject drugs and 10 service providers.

This paper 'injects' bodies into an otherwise disembodied UK context of understanding and responding to IDU based on two dominant couplings: addiction and recovery; public health and harm reduction. In the former, there is a focus on the 'brain', whilst the latter focuses on the rational decision-making 'mind', and where the body is considered it is in terms of classical biology. My research sought a greater recognition of 'bodies' in their widest sense. In particular, a body mapping (drawing) task was used to help participants articulate visceral experiences and depict the many actants involved.

As such, 'injecting bodies' also refer to the multiple bodies involved and produced in practices of, and responses to IDU. Participants detail several ways of 'keeping themselves together' (Mol and Law, 2004): carefully timing their drug consumption; cleaning the injection area to avoid 'dirty hits'; ensuring they have enough equipment like sterile needles, citric acid etc.; responding to opiate-related issues such as constipation and libido (e.g. eating certain foods and withdrawing slightly). There were also intra-actions (Barad, 2007) with socio-political bodies and stratifications. This paper disrupts a singular account of a destructive drug-using body, thereby enabling more caring and responsive interventions.

What is being created along with the development of mechanical devices and heart transplantation?

Author: Marisol Marini (Universidade de São Paulo)  email

Short Abstract

This work explores what the mechanical circulatory support is creating in American institutions and in a Brazilian laboratory. I will argue that in the American context, where scientists are proposing eligibility criteria for transplant, more than devices, concepts are being created.

Long Abstract

In the 1970s, technologies for mechanical circulatory support emerged as an alternative to prolong the life of patients who need to replace the "native" organ. Until now, there are not enough organs available to be transplanted, so the main purpose of these devices is to provide survival to patients. According to American researchers however, mechanical circulatory support was developed as a therapy for end-stage heart failure when heart transplantation was not yet a useful treatment modality (because the introduction of cyclosporine, which has enabled the increasing success of heart transplantation, has occurred only in the 1980s). That means that the mechanical circulatory support was preceding to heart transplantation. In fact, since the first heart-lung machine used in open-heart surgeries, the use of artificial devices changed the death concept (now considered as brain death), which made possible to replace human hearts. More than change the life and death concept, however, the wider production and use of mechanical devices now can change the conceptions about how to distribute organs to patients on the waiting list. According to these Americans researchers, considering the Intermacs database, it is possible to identify limiting factors and risk factors. Hence, from the data produced by research with artificial devices it is possible to create a profile of patients and establish who is the most suitable to receive artificial devices or human organs. This work aims to understand what is being created along with mechanical devices and explore the ethical questions related to heart transplantation.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.