Moved to change: health and bodily awareness in rehabilitation clinics for persistent pain and fatigue in the Netherlands
(University of Amsterdam)
Paper short abstract:
This paper articulates relations between movement and personal change as they are enacted in a Dutch rehabilitation clinic for people with persistent pain and fatigue. I argue that movement is not only understood as a means to health but as constituting health in itself.
Paper long abstract:
Drawing on participant observation and interviews, this paper articulates relations between movement and personal change as they are enacted in a Dutch rehabilitation clinic for people with persistent pain and fatigue. In Western readings of the body, the self's relation to change has typically been predicated on movement of the muscular body (Kuriyama, 1999). The idea is that a willing self may change by directing the body much like a rider rides a horse. While it has been claimed that western medicine establishes and assumes such body/self dualisms, medical anthropologists now argue the upsurge of chronic diseases invites a redefinition of both medicine and embodiment. In the clinic where I did fieldwork, patients who live with the consequences of having done 'too much' are taught to better sense out and accept their limits. The paper details how such bodily awareness is achieved through keeping diaries, performing body scans or breathing exercises. Focusing on physical training sessions and patients' own experiences, I show how at the same time, clinicians encourage patients to not surrender to their pain or fatigue, but to reconquer their ability to take part in daily life. When symptoms stubbornly remain, patients face the difficult task of reinventing themselves, their desires, and habits entirely. The health fostered in rehabilitation practices is thus not a bodily state, but emerges in ways of living and doing. Consequently, movement is not only understood as a means to health but as constituting health in itself.
Movement, stasis and interoception: unsettling the body [Medical Anthropology Network]