Earrings – and what they tell us about medicalisation

In this moving and personal blog post, Wendy Stainton-Rogers explores her experiences of the meaningful everyday practice of getting her ears pierced. Wendy connects this with her experience becoming, and remaining, the medical subject and object due to serious illness and disability.

Wendy for blog post pic (cropped)

Three weeks ago I went into a jeweller’s shop in a busy shopping mall and got my ears pierced. It was on my ‘day out’ to celebrate my 71st birthday. Possibly a bit of a weird thing to do at my age, but not that big a deal surely? Actually, for me it was a very big deal. It was the first time in years that I had got something done to my body for a frivolous reason rather than for a medical one.

In 2011 during a biopsy to see if I had cancer, my bowel was accidently punctured and, a day or so later, I felt dreadful and my temperature skyrocketed, the alarm was called and I needed to have many hours of emergency surgery to deal with the septicaemia that had ensued. From that point on my life changed dramatically and I became highly medicalised. I was incredibly compromised, ill and weak and totally dependent. For several years after that, surgical catastrophes followed, one after another and my life became completely dominated by medical procedures. These ranged from the minor ones – such as regular ‘obs’ (observations – the taking of my temperature, blood pressure and pulse throughout the day and sometimes all night too), through constantly having routine cannulas fitted and being sent for all manner of Scans, X-Rays and Ultrasounds, to very invasive procedures, such as having a Hickman line fitted (more on this later). This powerful medicalisation of my body, my life and my consciousness was intensified in the weeks and days following  two further lengthy surgical procedures attempting to get rid of the cancer.  Each time I ended up in intensive and then critical care, linked up to a barrage of machines, with a dedicated nurse constantly looking after me.

As a health psychologist, ‘medicalisation’ is a word I had certainly read about and even written about, but it signified little to me of the enormous impact of what it can do to a person – that is, until I experienced it for myself. The days of horror are over (I hope!) but I am left disabled in some interesting ways, so my life is still dominated by medicalisation. The outcome of all that went wrong with my body is that my gut was destroyed and I have a condition called ‘total intestinal failure’. This means I have to have artificial food supplied through the Hickman Line – a tube that enters my body just at the top of my left breast and goes into my bloodstream near my heart.

Every night my line has to be ‘put up’; that is, attached to a ‘giving set’ (another tube that is joined up to a 3 litre bag of liquid food) via a pump, so that the food I need to keep me alive can be pumped into my body. The pumping takes about eleven hours. ‘Putting me up’ is a fine-tuned procedure that Robin (my husband and my carer) and I do together, following strict instructions to keep the line sterile (it took us three weeks in hospital to be trained to do this). An infection in the line is potentially lethal, and leads to immediate hospitalisation and what my GP calls ‘scary antibiotics’, so we are very vigilant to make sure we get it right.

These hours of food pumping rather mucks up your day! The eleven and a half hours of ‘putting up’, pumping and ‘taking down’ is an invariable constant that has to be built into my life. At first I spent all of the time in bed, but it’s much easier now that I have a smaller stand that is easier to manipulate. I can have my food pumped into me anywhere I can get it to so I don’t have to be in bed. At one conference I wheeled it into the bar, making life much more sociable.

This kind of intrusion into one’s time is one of the strongest downsides of being medicalised. It’s all too easy to talk blithely about people having procedures like, say, chemotherapy or renal dialysis and to not to properly realise the enormous impact the way in which it devours time for the person concerned. It is totally life-limiting and intrusive.

Medicalisation has many, many facets in addition to eating into time. Another is what it does to your identity. So – back to the earrings. They used, in the past, to be very much part of my ‘style’. I have a gargantuan collection of earrings – elegant ones to wear to job interviews, flamboyant ones for parties and dancing, deeply emotionally meaningful ones that I had been given to mark special days – the list goes on and on. But through all the horrors and tribulations of hospital treatment earrings were clearly not something I could wear, and even when I got home, for a long time I was just too weak and clumsy to get them in. So my piercings closed up, and for a long while I was so sensitised to the need to be sterile that I couldn’t contemplate having my ears pierced again for fear of infection. So my ‘birthday treat’ was, indeed, a really, extremely, fabulously and magnificently big deal. And now only a few more weeks to go and I can be as frivolous with my ears as I want. Hallelujah!

Sun, strawberries, and social representations theory: ISCHP 2017

ISCHP has been kindly granted permission by Katie Bevans-Wright to re-post a piece of writing posted on July 16th 2017 after Katie attended this year’s ISCHP conference in Loughborough, UK. The original article can be found at https://drkatiewright-bevans.com/2017/07/16/sun-strawberries-and-social-representations-theory-ischp-2017/.

Katie blog post pic

This week I attended my second International Society of Critical Health Psychology Conference – a good time for a first blog post!

It had been four years since my last ISCHP. Back then I was in the early days of my PhD research and the Bradford conference opened my eyes to a world of passionate critical health psychologists. I was very much looking forward to Loughborough 2017 and it certainly didn’t disappoint. From arriving on a sunny Sunday afternoon to a reception of bangers and mash, and strawberries and cream, to the final (and very inspirational) keynote on the Wednesday by Dave Harper the whole 3 days were just fantastic. Unlike many other conferences where I feel very much on the margins as a critical social psychologist, I feel at home at ISCHP. My impression of ISCHP is that it is a critical space through and through, embracing scholars from many different theoretical and methodologically orientations and addressing a HUGE range of social and health concerns. There appears to be an understanding across the board that the most popular way of doing things is not necessarily the best or most effective one.

Scanning through the conference programme was not a case of locating where ‘my kind of talks’ were on and when but instead (refreshingly) having to face tricky decisions about what to attend and what to miss out on. Two of this events themes (‘diversity and inclusivity’ and ‘ageing’) summed up much of my research and interests, adding to dilemmas over which talks to attend. I thoroughly enjoyed talks on ageing and issues such as social inclusion, physical activity and sexual health. Many of the diversity and inclusivity talks touched upon the challenges of conducting good quality, ethical co-produced research with ‘disadvantaged’ or marginalised communities – these were most definitely relatable.

Presenting in one of two symposia on the theory of social representations was a personal highlight. For me this was an opportunity to position my work in the context of this fascinating and evolving theoretical framework. Between the two symposia, eight scholars (including colleagues at Keele: Michael Murray and Jenny Taylor) presented research on innovations in theory and methodology. It was inspiring to see SRT used to underpin novel methodologies such as film analysis and also to see people exploring different theoretical combinations to better understand social issues.

I came away from ISCHP 2017 feeling inspired, energised and motivated to crack on with the paper I’m currently working on! On top of that I met many friendly like-minded academics who I hope to cross paths with in the future. Already looking forward to ISCHP 2019!

For more information about ISCHP 2017’s successful conference in the UK the reader may wish to see the ‘Past conferences’ page of this website.

Telling tales of gendered bodies: Professor Virginia Braun’s Inaugral

Renowned feminist academic Virginia Braun recently gave her inaugral lecture: “Telling tales of gendered bodies: A personal and political reflection on critical scholarship in Trumped-up times” or the alternative title: “Trump Stole My Ontology”.

Not only is Virginia Braun lauded for her feminist work but also for her methodological innovation. Along with Victoria Clarke (see below), Professor Braun is the co-author of one of the most cited papers in psychology (an accessible guide to thematic analysis) and the co-author of Successful Qualitative Research

You can listen to her inaugural below and find out more about her here.

Alternative link to Inaugral:

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Professor Virginia Braun (L) and her long time collaborator and friend Dr Victoria Clarkecit

The 10th Biennial Conference at Loughborough University, UK: A view from the Conference Chair

~Elizabeth Peel / @profpeel

When the sunny 9 July 2017 opening of ISCHP2017 came around, featuring the book launch of the Critical Approaches to Health book series, and poetry from local BME and men’s mental health group Showcase Smoothie (and local ales, pies and strawberries and cream!) it seemed like only yesterday I was discussing putative themes and keynotes with the ISCHP Committee in front of a log fire in Grahamstown, South Africa two years previously.

We were delighted to host ISCHP2017 at Loughborough and welcome 120 delegates from 24 different countries to the campus. While the parallel streams focused on the conference themes of ageing, diversity and inclusivity, mental health, and innovations in critical theory and method contained excellent critical scholarship, for me it was the plenary sessions (and the ceilidh!) that made the conference.

There was a series of excellent ‘mystery’ provocative five-minute challenges namely:

  • Are we working within silos of knowledge? (Poul Rohleder);
  • Considering our discipline’s footprint in addressing global health issues (Britta Wigginton);
  • Is critical psychology still relevant in a ‘post-truth’ era? (Adam Jowett).

And the cryptically entitled:

  • Why are we talking about …. again? (Anthea Lesch);
  • The biggest lie on the Internet (Ally Gibson);
  • actuALLY (Brett Scholz);
  • Optimism (Andrea Lamarre); and
  • An honour of which I am very sensible (Glen Jankowski)

We had six excellent pre-conference workshops. I attended Neda Mahmoodi and Glen Jankowski’s practical session in which we developed impromptu memes and podcasts. Other workshops covered visualising health and illness (Ally Gibson & Andrea LaMarre), multi-media storytelling (Elisabeth Harrison & Carla Rice), using photography (Periklis Papaloukas & Iain Williamson), qualitative research (Wendy Stainton-Rogers & Carla Willig) and conversation analysis (Marco Pino & Charles Antaki). Wider aspects of the conference programme included a very interesting film and a photography display, both very well received.

The four keynote speakers – Ama de-Graft Aikins, Antonia Lyons, Davina Cooper and Dave Harper – did a really excellent job of stimulating thought and discussion around the important topics of Africa’s chronic illness burden, youth drinking cultures, prefigurative concepts, and public mental health respectively. The pecha kucha presentations were diverse and of a very high standard. I’d encourage those already planning (?!) for ISCHP2019 to consider the plenary formats of pecha kucha and five-minute challenge as their submission format of choice: not only do they capture the audience; but you capture a wider audience too. Here you can revisit the full programme_and the book of abstracts.

 No conference is complete without dancing and prizes! Our heart rates were impressively raised at the post-Gala dinner ceilidh and book/Routledge book voucher prizes were awarded to the following:

  • Student presentation: Sarah Gillborn (Leeds Beckett University)
  • Poster: Ian Williamson (De Montfort University)
  • Pecha kucha: Craig Owen (St Marys University)
  • 5 minute challenge: Harriet Gross (University of Lincoln)
  • Social media contributions: Andrea Lamarre (University of Guelph)
  • Most enthusiastic ceilidh dancer: Glen Jankowski (Leeds Beckett University)

Mine is just one perspective on the conference and there will be many others. As a community is needed to raise a child, so too is one needed to organize a conference, and my thanks go out again to all the conference planning committee, Sue White and other Loughborough team members Kathrina Connabeer, Carolyn Plateau, Laura Thompson and Gemma Witcomb. Psychology technician Peter Beaman popped over at late notice to take this great set of photographs for posterity, enjoy!

 


Last but not least, please do complete the conference feedback form – a really helpful thing to do, and useful for the team who takes on ISCHP2019.

 

BME psychology

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Psychology: A history of racism

Psychology has a racist history. There are many examples: how the British Psychological Society’s early presidents had explicit ties to the eugenics movement. Or how Black civil rights activists were forcibly incarcerated under the pretense they were schizophrenic and “paronoid against the police” (Metzl, 2011). Or how intelligence research by psychologists was originally used to show Black people and immigrants should not have the same legal, political or social rights as more intelligent whites (see Phillippe Rushton’s work published in 1990 by The Psychologist).

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Psychology’s racism today
Those of us in psychology today must be careful not to relegate our discipline’s racism to the past. Psychology still has a problem with racism. The people we include in our research, the authors and editors of journal articles we set are overwhelmingly White (Arnett, 2008; Heinrich, 2010).

Our reading that we set also tends to be overwhelming white, western and male (Jankowski et al., in prep). The problems with this should be obvious. With this reading, we’re overlooking BME psychologist’s work, we’re teaching content that is less likely to show how racism relates to health, development or our social world (or any of the stuff psychology professes to explain) and more simply we are not teaching the psychology of people but the psychology of white, western (and often male) people.

The ethnicity of the authors of the reading we set in our courses is only one proxy for racism in our discpline. Tokenistically including a reading because it is authored by a BME psychologist in our course is not enough. Our teaching of psychology needs to incorporate racism and its intersecting opressions into the curriculum that we teach. We will never be able to explain how people stay healthy or how a child develops or how mental health problems are caused without attending to structural oppressions like racism.

The BME Psychology website

Myself and other Leeds Beckett colleagues have therefore set up a website signposting to BME psychological and anti-racist work. We know this is only one small step towards reducing racism in and beyond our discipline. And so we need help. If you know any of the many BME psychologists we have doubtlessly missed, please add them to our archive. If you are willing to share anti-racist teaching materials or would like to use them then please do.

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1 day left to submit oral presentations for ISCHP17

Tomorrow, 10th March 2017, is the final day for submitting your abstracts for oral presentation formats for our conference – ISCHP 2017 in Loughborough.

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Image credit: statistically-funny.blogspot.co.uk

You can select from a range of oral presentation formats – pecha kucha (20 visual slides), 5-minute challenge presentations, or the classic oral presentation (10 minutes plus 5 minutes for questions). Symposia of three or four talks are also still open. Abstracts for these oral presentation formats are all due by the end of this Friday (10th March) UK time. Abstracts must be submitted using the forms available at http://ischp2017.weebly.com/oral-presentations.html and sent by email to the conference email address (ISCHP2017@lboro.ac.uk). Abstracts must be a maximum of 250 words with no subheadings or references.

 

Only ePoster abstracts will be accepted after 10th March (until the final poster abstract deadline of 1st April). Posters will be displayed throughout the conference and are a great opportunity to bring along work you’ve been involved with if your collaborators cannot attend, or for students to attend with late-breaking research.

Registration is open at http://ischp2017.weebly.com/registration.html (early bird deadline: 30th April 2017).

6 reasons why we have an International Women’s Day

~Glen Jankowski
As critical psychologists, we need to be critical of sexism. Days like International Working Women’s Day remind us of the importance of feminism. Here’s 6 other reasons why we need International Women’s Day.
@EmmaKennedy

1) Because men are assumed to be default persons. This ‘Male as default’ assumption can be seen in the above where Judi Dench and J K Rowling only count as ‘women’ but Ricky Gervais and Ian McEwan get to be ‘author’s’ and ‘comedians’ Source: @ Emma Kennedy
More examples here:

gender flipping

2) Because of how sexist popular representations of women are. Including in video games and comics. This Gender Flipping example shows us how male superheroes would look like if they were treated like female superheroes Source: http://junkee.com/flip-it-and-reverse-it-how-to-fight-the-gender-wars/15081

mansplaining
3) Because lots of research shows men are more likely to interrupt, patronize and ignore women in everyday conversations. And yes this happens in academia. The above image shows mansplaining on Twitter where a man corrects a woman on an article that she wrote.  Continue reading

Qualitative Methods in Psychology (QMiP) conference – a safe space for qual researchers (immediately before ISCHP 2017!)

By Sarah Riley, QMiP 2017 Conference Chair (edited by Gareth Treharne)

Details of conference: https://www.bps.org.uk/events/conferences/qualitative-methods-psychology-section-bi-annual-conference-2017

“Conferences are liturgical celebrations, affirmations of solidarity, symbolic spaces for those who speak a language (whether socialism or orthodontics) unintelligible to most of their fellow-humans, and who therefore need from time to time to relax with those of their own kind, as a cross-dresser might feel the gathering urge to withdraw from the world of the bank or bakery and ease into a pair of corsets” Terry Eagleton The Gatekeeper

Being amongst kind is important for all academics. But when it came to organising the British Psychology Society’s Qualitative Methods in Psychology (QMiP) conference in 2017 this need felt particularly salient. To this end, QMiP’s aims have been to provide a safe space as well as an exciting space.

qmip

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‘Autism has never caused me any pain – but the stigma has’: Interview with Julie Dachez

~By Andrea LaMarre alamarre@uoguelph.ca

This blog post takes the form of an interview with recent social psychology PhD graduate, Julie Dachez. Julie was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of 27 and has been an activist ever since. She has just earned a doctoral degree in Social Psychology (“Another way of looking at autism: a psychosocial approach”). She is the author of the blog emoiemoietmoi.over-blog.com and of the graphic novel “La différence invisible”. She holds conferences all around France about autism and the pathologising of difference and has recently been named personality of the year by a french newspaper. Andrea interviewed Julie by email over the course of December about the experience of doing critical research on Aspergers in an environment not always open to critical perspectives.

social-model

Image from The Medical Model of Disability: http://ddsg.org.uk/taxi/medical-model.html

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ProfFile: Wendy Stainton-Rogers

This is the third in our new series ProfFile: informal interviews with leading or under recognized critical health psychologists. This month’s ProfFile is with Professor Wendy Stainton-Rogers, who is based in Yorkshire, UK.  A key organizer of ISCHP, Wendy has blazed a trail for many of us working in critical health, social and feminist psychology. For previous ProfFiles see here and here

Wendy
Wendy at the Psychology of Women Section Conference, UK, July 2016. Image credit: Dee Lister. For more pics that Dee took at the POWS conference see her Flickr page

What is your current position?

I’m now retired but still a ‘Professor Emerita’ at the Open University in the UK. However, it’s rather more complicated than that.

Less than a month after my retirement in September 2011 I had to have a biopsy to see if I had developed cancer. This small procedure went catastrophically wrong and I was very ill for several years with the aftermath. As I write, five years later, yes I do have cancer, but not the aggressive one first diagnosed. It affects me but I am much recovered from what happened (more surgical catastrophes and two periods of acute starvation). Over this time I had most of my gut removed (hence the malnutrition). So these days I am IV fed by tube, pumped in for 11 hours overnight. I can’t eat at all, but can cook, so all is not lost.

It was what you might call a severe case of participant-observer experience! I have been encouraged to write about it, and maybe I will, given time. In sociological terms,  these days I’m a bit of a cyborg with a tube sticking out of me and have a Klingon carapace stuck on my abdomen, so I do see myself as very alien and disfigured.  Becoming disabled has been a truly salutary experience. I am out of a wheelchair now but have an intimate knowledge of the bowels of Leeds Beckett university’s (in Leeds, UK) rather laberynthine arrangements for access.

The good news is that I am getting better and now active academically once again. This year I’ve been to some seminars and the British Psychological Society’s Psychology of Women Section (POWS) conference, and am currently working hard on editing the second edition of the Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research in Psychology, together with Carla Willig. I’m keenly looking forward to attending the ISCHP conference in 2017, and even thinking of making some kind of contribution.

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