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Self, agency and the surgical collective: Detachment

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Tiago Moreira


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In this article, I describe the socio-technical organisation of surgical rehabilitation. After having gone through surgical intervention, patients are implicated within various types of medical work aimed at adjusting their bodies to post-operative social and material environments. My argument is that the process of re-establishment of a 'self' is mediated through a re-disposition of agency in the socio-technical ensemble upon which the patient depends immediately after surgery. Drawing on one year of ethnographic fieldwork in a neurosurgical clinic, and theoretical resources from science and technology studies, this paper is an attempt to describe how, within surgical post-operative practices, the relational dynamics of social and material components endorsed within those practices may re-institute patients' sense of themselves, and re-organise their relationship with the world and other people. In surgery, the outcome of this dynamic process is the reorganisation of forms of agency for the patient. I will refer to this reorganisation as 'detachment'. It is my contention that this research may contribute to the literature on the experience of chronic illness by specifying the socio-technical conditions for the local achievement of self and agency.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Moreira TE

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Sociology of Health and Illness

Year: 2004

Volume: 26

Issue: 1

Pages: 32-49

Print publication date: 01/01/2004

ISSN (print): 0141-9889

ISSN (electronic): 1467-9566

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2004.00377.x

PubMed id: 15027989


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