Monday, 25 February 2019

Event: Call for abstracts

The unbounded body: continence management, personhood and the politics of care
BSA Medical Sociology Annual Conference, 11-13 September 2019, York, UK
Panel organisers: Sonia Vougioukalou & Katie Featherstone (Cardiff University), Tiina Vaittinen (Tampere University)
Abstract submission deadline: 11 March
Becoming incontinent has profound implications on one’s sense of self. It also has profound implications more widely for others, particularly when individuals are unable to manage their continence independently. Drawing on sociological research on ‘dirty work’, ‘elimination work’, ‘body work’ or ‘body labour’, paid work carried out on the bodies of others and ‘dirty dying’ (Wolkowitz, 2006, Lawton 2008) and anthropological research on dirt, pollution and taboo (Douglas 1966, Lea 1999, Jervis 2001, van der Geest 2007), this panel seeks to better understand the social dimensions of continence and its management. In Pollution and Taboo, Mary Douglas attributed dirt’s inferior and polluting status to being ‘matter out of place’. Urine and faeces outside the body and toilet bowl ‘violate the social order’: the cleanliness of the home, the healing status of the hospital, the capacity of a community to control ‘matter out of place’. In continence management, the dirtiness of the urine and faeces is entangled with the processes of intimate care, and the stigmatised materialities that go with it, including incontinence products. Yet, when people living with incontinence are unable to manage the condition independently, this activity, which is central to human dignity is assigned to others. It becomes the work of those (usually female)  who are viewed as closest to the incontinent person and to care workers, which is habitually regarded as low status, low skilled and is often gendered (Simpson, et al, 2012). Personal care is often described as "unskilled”, but is made up of complex interactional bodily care.
We seek papers that cut across the material and symbolic aspects of continence management by exploring different conditions (e.g. infancy, learning disability, cancer, dementia, stroke, fistula etc), life stages, and intersectional experiences. More specifically, we welcome papers with a person-focused approach discussing the impact of incontinence on identity, personhood, dehumanisation, embodiment, and relationships; papers that provide an analysis of the stigmatised materialities of incontinence management; and papers that discuss the politics of care addressing classism, ageism, xenophobia and misogyny that affects who manages ‘matter out of place’. 

Please submit a 250 word abstract by the 11th of March to Selected presenters will be expected to attend the BSA MedSoc conference in York 11–13 September 2019. We will be putting together a proposal for a Special Issue with all panel contributions.
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