October 2003 / Hamburg

Biannual DGV Meeting “Methods and Approaches of Qualitative Data Analysis”

Panel “Medical Anthropology”: “Issues Concerning the Relationship of Methodological Practice, Knowledge Generation and Research Object in Medical Anthropology”

Suffering, personal concern and imperative action are (in combination with embodiment and the illness/disease differentiation) the focal points of Medical Anthropology. From one’s personal concern with suffering follows the request or desire to become active, and therefore the imperative action as accompanying aspect. These three aspects obviously connect Medical Anthropology with biomedicine, although biomedicine has a different professional and methodological way of dealing with these aspects. As opposed to the health sciences and other disciplines Medical Anthropology moreover does not confine itself to one field of activity and positioning which could be called typical for Medical Anthropology. Medical Anthropology defines a majority of its areas of responsibility and competence in dissociation from biomedicine, but in the end on the basis of similar categories as the latter. In the areas of pathogenesis, therapeutic aspects, suffering and the fixation on the body it remains close to biomedicine. An effort to define such a self-contained subject in Medical Anthropology is the concept of social suffering, which supports a wider approach to questions of cultural access and also anchors suffering outside of the body in the society. In the end, however, social suffering still remains part of the aspect of suffering.

These efforts should, among others, be part of the considerations of this panel about methods and methodology. Taking similarities with biomedicine concerning the aspects „suffering“, „personal concern“ and „imperative action“ as a starting point, we move towards differences in the second part. The methodological dimensions of recording of „suffering“ will be explained using the example of suicide among young people in India. The panel will approach the dealing with „personal concern“ with the topic of organ transplants, and the problem of the „imperative action“ in a paper about methodological implications the double role of doctor and anthropologist. A discourse analytic approach “outside of biomedical effectiveness“ will be presented using the example of risk terminology in pregnancy and birth. The paper about HIV/AIDS will show how a different perspective on bodies (and with this a different perspective on „access to culture“) originates from the analysis and interpretation of metaphors on a methodological level.

Shifting the accent from suffering to culture on one hand put the claim of reducing suffering into perspective, and on the other hand enables an anthropological approach by considering disease as a cultural feature. At the same time, however, the panel emphasises that an anthropological approach to disease and health does not exclude a reflexive dealing with suffering and personal concern. In the conclusion the different aspects will be combined and incorporated into the previous methodological debate. The results of the papers will then be regarded on a more general level of abstraction. This should enable us to come to generally valid methodical/methodological conclusions for Medical Anthropology (and qualitative social sciences).


Information: Angelika Wolf / Hansjörg Dilger (angewolf@zedat.fu-berlin.de; hansjoerg.dilger@berlin.de)


Saturday, October 4, 2003
9.30 Uhr Opening
9.40 – 9.45 Welcome (Hansjörg Dilger)
9.45 – 10.00 Introduction (Angelika Wolf)
10.00 – 10.30 Stefan Ecks “Suicide: Reflexions on Medical Anthropology research of suffering” (India)
10.30 – 11.00 Vera Kalitzkus “Subjectivity and reflexivity in qualitative research. A study on organ transplantation in Germany”
11.00 – 11.30 Michael Knipper “Action and research. Methodological consequences of ‘imperative action’ in Medical Anthropology” (Ecuador)
11.30 – 12.10 Pause
12.10 – 12.40 Elsbeth Kneuper Discourse Analysis and Medical Anthropology” (Germany)
12.40 – 13.10 Angelika Wolf “Participant observation put to test: how to overcome limits in research about HIV/AIDS” (Malawi)
13.10 – 13.25 Conclusion (Bernhard Hadolt)
13.25 – 14.25 Open discussion (chaired by: Hansjörg Dilger, Michael Knipper)