Guide The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice

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In telling us what atherosclerosis is in different settings, she places the disease in the context of the multiple ways it is practiced.

The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice

This book is, then, not just an ethnography of disease. It is also a look at the ontology of atherosclerosis as it is enacted. Mol is asking us to consider what goes into making this disease and how the practices that bring it into being—in the clinic, lab, operating room, during an autopsy—are interdependent. Atherosclerosis is many, she tells us, but these many hang together. Ontological multiplicity is achieved through practicing disease in different contexts while acknowledging these seemingly singular practices possess unique ways of interacting and enacting together.

The clinic, lab and operating room each play parts in the practices of the other: they provide material for examination, patients to operate on, and diagnostics. Mol calls this study of the practice of disease praxiology, and her ethnography a praxiography. That is, she is describing and foregrounding practices here in the ay an ethnography described and foregrounds people. In studying what disease is in practice—specifically biomedical practice, as patient narratives are largely absent—Mol is creating a place within the social sciences for the study of disease.

For a very long time now, the social sciences have focused on illness, on experience, and left disease in the hands of biomedical professionals.


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A study of disease is itself relatively novel, and is reflected in the kinds of questions she is asking here. Rather than trying to find out what medical professionals know about disease, she wants to see what it is they are looking at, what it is they are doing. Phenomenology of illness and epistemology in biomedicine are left out purposefully.

Reflective of her divided text, this is part of her way of challenging disciplinary divides, demonstrating how artificially and arbitrarily they are created.


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The idea that certain things are out of reach or, perhaps more disturbing, should not be touched by the social sciences is an unspoken boundary that Mol is troubling in her text and through her own practice. Trained in philosophy, sociology, and anthropology, she is uniquely poised to problematize disciplinary boundaries, though at times it seems the theoretical portion of the text is privileged over the ethnographic. Her descriptions of the practices and people she observed became repetitive after the first chapter, rendering them less engaging and nuanced than the theoretical portion of her text.

The Body Multiple by Annemarie Mol | Waterstones

Each of the proposed books are available as hard copies and e-books through the University of Toronto Library. The Ethnography Lab is located on the 3rd floor of the Anthropology building, at 19 Russell Street, which is accessible via ramp, automatic doors and elevator. Beside the lab there are two all gender bathrooms and one that is wheelchair accessible. For accessibility requests and accomodations please contact hannah.

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Nature Outlook 2016 Philosophers’ dialogue - Annemarie Mol