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Refiguring risk in medicine and healthcare: Crafting wild narratives

Refiguring risk in medicine and healthcare: Crafting wild narratives

Patterson, Jennifer ORCID: 0000-0002-8254-7602 (2017) Refiguring risk in medicine and healthcare: Crafting wild narratives. In: Bleakley, Alan, Lynch, Larry and Whelan, Gregg, (eds.) Risk and Regulation at the Interface of Medicine and the Arts: Dangerous Currents. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Cambridge, pp. 10-25. ISBN 978-1-4438-9888-1

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Risk does not exist. It is an invention rather than a reality yet it arguably underpins Western societal structures. Etymologically it is a relatively recent word and one whose origins appear obscure. In Chinese medicine, its relationship to fear locates its influence in the kidneys, with adrenaline. Its various contemporary uses and meanings suggest a hybrid origin, a becoming that melds European commerce and Arabic belief systems with a sense of looking back upon Classical Graeco-Roman heroic identity, for conceptually it has been re-grounded in traditional and gendered Western practices. Its engendered aspects have led to its particular appearance in male-dominated narratives about bravery and adventures in pursuit of finance, treasures or goals. Its possible Arabic origins identify something that is accorded by God rather than chance. In this century, Beck’s work on ‘Risk Society’ associates management of risk with Weber’s Western consumer materialism and Protestantism. The concept of risk has therefore become an instrument of economics and political and material social governance and yet, Janus-like, it also constitutes a medium or process, a threshold locus for re-thinking or trialling - and potentially validating - an emergent individual identity, sometimes successfully, sometimes with horrifying consequences. On the one hand risk, associated with scientific measures, can be ‘managed’ while chance, serendipity and opportunity are ‘wild’ options that are not ‘managed’ but fast acquiring marginal eco-credentials. In this, mainstream Western society operates from the kidney position, from fear of a future intangible. Risk offers a means of transformation, a promise of value and ultimately a mediation of death or failure, but it equally avoids one of the huge realities of life - uncertainty. This paper explores some of the complex cultural and scientific framings of risk that seeks to weight the dice, debating its use as purveyor or guarantor of safety in medical contexts.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Medical Humanities, Risk Discourses
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > Centre for Applied Sociology Research (CASR)
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Last Modified: 30 Apr 2020 14:30

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