Boundary at work: alternative medicine in biomedical settings


Nissim Mizrachi, The Gershon H. Gordon Faculty of Social Science, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Tel Aviv University, POB 390–40, Tel Aviv 69978 Israel. e-mail:


Abstract  The study explores the process of boundary demarcation within hospital settings by examining a new phenomenon in modern medicine: collaboration between alternative and biomedical practitioners (primarily physicians) working together in biomedical settings. The study uses qualitative methods to examine the nature of this collaboration by calling attention to the ways in which the biomedical profession manages to secure its boundaries and to protect its hard-core professional knowledge. It identifies the processes of exclusion and marginalization as the main mechanisms by which symbolic boundaries are marked daily in the professional field. These processes enable the biomedical profession to contain its competitors and at the same time to avoid overt confrontations and mitigate potential tensions between the two medical systems.