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Knowing the body and embodying knowledge: an ethnography of student practitioner experiences in osteopathy and homeopathy

By Nicola Kay Gale


The subject of this thesis is the lived experience of training in non-orthodox health care professions1 or CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) as it is commonly known. The thesis focuses both on the nature of the knowledge and skills acquired during training (knowledge of the body) and the changing embodiment of the students (embodying knowledge). It is based on ethnographic research, conducted over one academic year, at two case-study sites: the anonymized Colleges of Homeopathy and Osteopathy. The data presented in this thesis offers four distinct contributions. Methodologically, it offers insights into the embodied experience of conducting sociological research and the deep impact that this experience has on the researcher, further supporting the argument that reflexivity is a vital component of valid and reliable research. Empirically, it contributes to our understanding of an under-researched area, the ?Tactice of CAM therapies generally, and the training of practitioners particularly. Theoretically, the explicit focus of both the participants in the study .and myself, as researcher, on 'bodies' makes it a worthwhile topic of study to contribute to the growing discipline of embodied sociology. Finally, from a social policy perspective, the explosion of interest in CAM in recent years, and particularly the growing pressure on practitioners to regulate their professions, makes research into the nature of professional knowledge and practice very timely. The thesis concludes that it is of critical importance to consider embodiment in any understanding of healthcare knowledge or practice. In particular, an embodied sociological perspective permits recognition of the depth and nature of the knowledge and skills that healthcare practitioners learn to deploy on a day-to-day basis

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