People often think that philosophy and sociology are concerned with grand ideas like hope, suffering, the meaning of existence, and what it means to be good. And while it can be about these things, it often concerns things that are commonplace, everyday and quotidian (a lovely word, meaning occurring everyday, mundane and repeated).
The latest special issue of the journal Sociology (link) is devoted to the study of everyday life and asks some really interesting questions that we can use in our thinking and practice of physiotherapy.
In the guest editorial, Sarah Neal and Karim Murji argue that, ‘In many ways, it is difficult to overstate the significance of the everyday because it is, as Sarah Pink (2012: 143) observes, ‘at the centre of human existence, the essence of who we are and our location in the world’.’ And that;
In doing so, [the authors in this special issue] not only give importance to the ordinary, and take the ordinary seriously as a category of analysis, but they also evidence how everyday life social relations, experiences and practices are always more than simply or straightforwardly mundane, ordinary and routine. Rather, everyday life is dynamic, surprising and even enchanting; characterized by ambivalences, perils, puzzles, contradictions, accommodations and transformative possibilities.’
With a desire to see our role as significant and promote how important physiotherapy is, it’s tempting to want to emphasise the transformative possibilities of what we do. In a competitive marketplace, where our jobs are often threatened and we’re being asked continually to account for our actions and the necessity of our work, it’s often tempting to focus on the ‘big ideas;’ the things that will set us apart from others and give us marketing/professional advantage: a point of difference.
But the everyday is, in reality, where we do most of our work. The micro is often much more ‘real’ than the macro, but is much less well understood. Micro histories and micro narratives are all becoming the focus for academic inquiry in recent years, and there is an increasing interest in the small, atomistic, incremental and slow change that takes place in people’s lives. Why can’t this apply to physiotherapy too?
Think about the everyday tweaks you apply to a person’s rehab programme, or the small relationships you have with everyday objects in your clinic that work ‘just so’ after years of trial and error. Think about the daily events that routinely slip under the radar and hardly provoke interest, but define the structure of your day, or the day of your clients/patients.
Some years ago, a patient told me that they knew how their day would go when they took their first conscious breath in the morning. If they felt the weight of an infection starting in their chest, they knew they would have to stay in, slow down, take care over their breathing exercises, and rest. A thousand minor adaptations and adjustments as a result of a single feeling.
Perhaps the papers in this special issue could prompt us to think about the vast variety of microscopic events, systems, objects and subjectivities that make up our day, and think about how you might understand them better in the future?
Table of contents, Sociology, October 2015; 49 (5)
- Why Everyday Life Matters: Class, Community and Making Life Livable – Les Back
- The Scriptural Economy, the Forbes Figuration and the Racial Order: Everyday Life in South Africa 1850–1930 – Liz Stanley
- Migrant Urbanisms: Ordinary Cities and Everyday Resistance – Suzanne M Hall
- Object Relations in Accounts of Everyday Life – Jenny Rinkinen, Mikko Jalas, and Elizabeth Shove
- A Day at the Beach: Rising Sea Levels, Horseshoe Crabs, and Traffic Jams – Lisa Jean Moore
- Reconceptualising the Mundane and the Extraordinary: A Lens through Which to Explore Transformation within Women’s Everyday Footwear Practices – Victoria Robinson
- Everyday Experiences of Sexism in Male-dominated Professions: A Bourdieusian Perspective – Abigail Powell and Katherine JC Sang
- In/Exclusion in the Clinic: Down’s Syndrome, Dysmorphology and the Ethics of Everyday Medical Work – Gareth M Thomas and Joanna Latimer
- ‘Snowed in!’: Offbeat Rhythms and Belonging as Everyday Practice – Julia Bennett
- Telling Moments and Everyday Experience: Multiple Methods Research on Couple Relationships and Personal Lives – Jacqui Gabb and Janet Fink
Neal, S. & Murji, K. (2015). Sociologies of Everyday Life: Editors’ Introduction to the Special Issue. Sociology, 49(5), 811-819. doi:10.1177/0038038515602160