Shaping of 'Embodied Expertise' in Alternative Medicine – Københavns Universitet

15. juni 2018

Shaping of 'Embodied Expertise' in Alternative Medicine

Associate professors at the Department of Sociology Inge Kryger Pedersen and Charlotte Baarts have written the chapter 'Shaping of ’Embodied Expertise’ in Alternative Medicine' in the recently published book 'Complementary and Alternative Medicine.'

Developing the notion of ‘embodied expertise’ the chapter endeavors to contribute explaining the widespread use of alternative medicine. Defined as treatment not usually offered within the ordinary health service and without public support or control, but offered on a fee-for-service basis by non-authorized practitioners with varying types of training and certification, alternative medicine is widespread in the Scandinavian welfare states and elsewhere. The chapter is based on ethnographic research within three of the most popular forms of session-based alternative medicine in Denmark. The authors have followed users of acupuncture, reflexology, or mindfulness meditation, conducted in-depth interviews, and observed treatment sessions. Drawing on sociology of expertise, the chapter explores how treatments are constructed by bringing various criteria other than scientific evidence or knowledge into play, for instance the ‘tasks and problems’ to be handled in the clinic, the practitioner’s practical skills, engagement and co-work with the client. It is suggested that the notion of ‘embodied expertise’ covers practices, social, material, and bodily arrangements that are involved in alternative treatments. ‘Embodied expertise,’ referring to practice of the practitioner and sometimes the client as well, might help to further explain the popularity of alternative medicine by linking together techniques, time, devices, spatial, emotional, bodily, and material dimensions of the treatments.

 Inge Kryger Pedersen & Charlotte Baarts, Shaping of ’Embodied Expertise’ in Alternative Medicine, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.