Each day over the next week I’ll post up an abstract for a paper being presented by a member of the Critical Physiotherapy Network at the In Sickness and In Health conference in Mallorca in June 2015. (You can find more information on the conference here.)
Re-inventing artisans for 21st century health care
By David Nicholls
Calls for health professionals to be more than ‘technical rationalists’ have been prominent in professionalization literature for more than half a century. Professions with a strong history of skills-based competence have struggled more than most to respond to these calls. Those that have been heavily influenced by biomedical discourses – professions like dentistry, osteopathy, physiotherapy and podiatry – appear to be doubly disadvantaged because of biomedicine’s strong affinity for Cartesian Dualism and its reductive tendencies. Foucault reminds us, however, that no power can ever be total, and that power always carries with it the possibility for resistance. Consequently, we have seen in recent years a number of counter-narratives emerge within the professions allied to medicine that call for new forms of ‘deliberate’ practice. Using physiotherapy as a paradigm case, I explore the history of the present of physiotherapy’s long affinity with biomechanical discourses drawing on Hannah Arendt’s work in The Human Condition. Arendt’s conceptualisation of action, making, behaviour and fabrication are deployed to re-examine the concept of the artisan; a once predominant mode of labour relation that fell into decline with the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of mass-market economies. In recent years, the artisan has returned as a form of resistance to consumer culture, and it appears that people people in advanced economies are looking to more bespoke, embodied experiences – even in their everyday purchasing decisions. To this end, I examine whether the artisan might create the necessary conditions where traditionally skills-based professions may finally break free from the constraints of biomedical rationalism and engage in more ‘deliberate’ modes of practise.