Biomedicine inside out: an ethnography of brain surgery


Sky Gross, Department of Medical Education, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv 69978, Israel


The article discusses patient objectification from the viewpoint of the objectifying, rather than the objectified party. Resisting a dichotomy between physician-objectifying and ethnographer-humanising, the author portrays objectification not as an essential by-product of professional tendencies, epistemological bases, practical necessities and processes of socialisation but as highly dependent upon context. A further look is given to the settings within which the discursive dynamics of ‘objectivity’ and ‘experience’ come about through artefacts, space, symbols, bodily appearances and so on. The author portrays her relationship with Omer, a brain cancer patient whom she has followed over a period of 18 months and then focuses on her observations of his brain surgery. The fluctuations in the author’s relationship with Omer (as a subject and as a body, alternately) are brought within their immediate contextual elements.