MEGA Seminar

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in or organisation af a conference

See relations at Aarhus University

Camilla Brændstrup Laursen - Speaker

Participation in the panel: Distributing choice: when care explodes the liberal chooser.

Paper presentation: Images of care: the roles of choice and experimentation in the treatment of uncertain gut trouble.

How to care for something uncertain? How to manage a kind of suffering for which neither cause(s) nor cure(s) are known yet? This paper explores how Danish patients and health professionals approach the challenging task of managing medically unexplained gut trouble or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a disorder recognized to affect 11-16 percent of the Danish population (Krogsgaard et al. 2013; Rasmussen 2015). Based on, as of now, 10 months of ethnographic fieldwork in two Danish outpatient gastroenterology clinics and in the homes of 18 people diagnosed with IBS at these clinics, the paper offers two images of care: The supermarket and the exploratorium. While the first image particularly highlights the role of choice in care, the other highlights the role of experimentation. In her influential book, The Logic of Care: Health and the problem of patient choice (2008), Annemarie Mol distinguishes between a “logic of choice” and a “logic of care”. I will discuss the images of IBS care in relation to these logics, arguing that a “logic of choice” still prevails in Danish gastroenterology clinics where treatment options are presented as products on supermarket shelves, but that choice and care may intertwine. However, if the abilities to control circumstances and consider one’s possibilities are preconditions for choice, where does that leave people whose diseased bodies are unpredictable and the possibilities for managing them are at the same time endless and limited, yet definitely not ones whose usefulness can be calculated through thought? Providing the image of the exploratorium, I will emphasize how gut troubled people’s efforts to alleviate suffering might not simply be understood in terms of individual responsibility, will, preferences and selectable “lifestyles” but rather in terms of being called to pragmatically experiment in a subjunctive mood (Whyte 1997; 2005), as well as in relation to what Max Weber once termed “Lebenschancen” (life circumstances or chances) (1999 [1922]). While the experimentation that I describe resonates with what Annemarie Mol calls “tinkering” (2008; 2010), I wish to also direct attention to something that she does not explore much, namely the human lives lived outside hospitals and the social possibilities that mark out paths of action.
12 Aug 201914 Aug 2019


ConferenceMEGA Seminar


  • Choice, experimentation, Pragmatics, Care, Gut trouble, Irritable bowel syndrome

ID: 164663680