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Sociol Health Illn. 2011 Feb;33(2):296-307. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2010.01292.x.

Body work in respiratory physiological examinations.

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Faculty of Social Sciences, Bodø University College, Norway.


This article focuses on respiratory physiological examinations conducted in the respiratory physiological lab of a Norwegian hospital ward. The examinations were aimed at producing exact and objective measures of patients' respiratory functions or capacities. The quality of the examinations depended on correct use of technology and adequate body work by professionals and patients. The concept of 'body work' has several meanings. The professionals' body work was not direct hands-on work. Their contact with the patient was communicative and informed or guided by technical devices. Although the patient's objective body constituted the focus of examination, it necessitated an active and compliant patient. The concrete outcome of the examination was a textual artefact that in the examination situation counted as the accurate and objective representation of the patient's respiratory physiological status. These examinations represented a mutually constitutive process between various agents, bodies and bodily modes required for and aimed at by the examination; different articulations of body work were essential for these processes. The objective of the article is to examine the kinds of body work that are conducted, paying particular attention to the conceptions of bodies that are practically generated during these examinations.

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