Bodies in Formation: An Ethnography of Anatomy and Surgery by Rachel Prentice

By Rachel Prentice

Surgeons hire craft, crafty, and know-how to open, realize, and service sufferer our bodies. In Bodies in Formation, anthropologist Rachel Prentice enters surgical suites more and more full of new clinical applied sciences to discover how surgeons are made within the early twenty-first century. Prentice argues that clinical scholars and citizens examine via perform, coming to embrace designated methods of perceiving, performing, and being. Drawing on ethnographic commentary in anatomy laboratories, working rooms, and know-how layout teams, she exhibits how trainees develop into physicians via interactions with colleagues and sufferers, applied sciences and pathologies, our bodies and individuals. Bodies in Formation foregrounds the technical, moral, and affective formation of physicians, demonstrating how, even inside a global of North American biomedicine more and more ruled through applied sciences for distant interventions and automatic educating, excellent care is still the artwork of human healing.

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Anatomists’ debates index a central concern of 28 INTRODUCTION North American biomedicine today: Should good healing engage a physician’s mind, body, and emotions, or should physicians focus exclusively on marshaling and utilizing biomedicine’s extraordinary accumulation of information and powerful tools for diagnosis and intervention? The second section examines the technical, ethical, and perceptual lessons of surgical residency. Chapter 3 considers medicine’s hidden curriculum—the informal lessons of teaching through clinical apprenticeship—and the ways medical learning becomes embodied.

Anatomists’ debates index a central concern of 28 INTRODUCTION North American biomedicine today: Should good healing engage a physician’s mind, body, and emotions, or should physicians focus exclusively on marshaling and utilizing biomedicine’s extraordinary accumulation of information and powerful tools for diagnosis and intervention? The second section examines the technical, ethical, and perceptual lessons of surgical residency. Chapter 3 considers medicine’s hidden curriculum—the informal lessons of teaching through clinical apprenticeship—and the ways medical learning becomes embodied.

Overall, I spent eighteen months observing and interviewing trainees, physicians (mostly surgeons), technology builders, and educators. I was in residence in the laboratory at Coastal for ten months, then returned several times, as I continued to follow the laboratory’s work. I spent three months at Urban. The ethnographic approach that I took entailed, in the words of anthropologist Rayna Rapp, ‘‘hands-on research that is open-ended, and locates the researcher as far into the experiences of the people whose lives are touched by the topic as she can figure out how to go’’ (1999, 2).

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