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.)
Embodied ways of knowing in physiotherapy – unexplored competencies?
By Anne G. Langaas
The glocal phenomenon under scrutiny in this presentation is the marginalization and uncertain status granted to certain ways of knowing in physiotherapy.
The empirical material was generated through a study of Norwegian students of physiotherapy. Different ethnographic methods were used including repeated dialogic interviews/conversations with students of physiotherapy and participant observation at the out-patient department at Oslo University College. In addition I also draw on my own experience from teaching and tutoring students of physiotherapy. I have chosen a pragmatic approach in the sense of investigating what phenomena do. The paper is informed by works and theories of William James, Vinciane Despret, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone and Bruno Latour.
My description and analysis on how students of physiotherapy think and act when they work close to and hands-on with other persons’ bodies, brought to the fore that physiotherapy programs not only educate physiotherapists – they also educate bodies that are competent in certain ways. In order to recognize this as a central way of knowing, the physiotherapy profession needs to develop a suitable vernacular – bearing in mind that it might not be possible to verbally express the bodily ways of knowing in a precise and exhausted way. Through my research I develop the term ‘the competent body of the physiotherapist’. In my presentation I will elaborate some of its characteristics and how it comes into being through some examples on how the physiotherapist’s body enacts certain attitudes or ways of being, of acting and of reflecting in intercorporeal encounters. The competent body of the physiotherapist acts in dialogical, dynamic and flexible manners. It is tuned in to affect and to be affected, to touch and to be touched, and to move and to be moved. The competent body of the physiotherapist holds as one of its abilities a particular sensitivity towards another individual’s bodily signs and cues.
This calls for a professional way of qualifying incorporated knowledge. In an environment where the claim for evidence based practice is dominant, this kind of knowledge could be granted an uneasy status. In clinical practices however, this kind of knowledge often qualifies itself in the relations where it occurs.