Accepted Paper:

Experiential tensions: language, trauma and amputation  
Narelle Warren (Monash University)

Paper short abstract:

Amputee rehabilitation decisions are often made on the basis of etiology. In this paper, I draw upon an ethnographic study of four Victorian amputee clinics to interrogate the tensions that are brought about through the language which is used to describe the etiology of amputation.

Paper long abstract:

Within amputee rehabilitation, decisions about formal support are often made on the basis of etiology. People who undergo amputation for reasons related to trauma (usually road traffic injury, workplace injury or misadventure) are classified as 'traumatic amputees' and receive psychological support, as well as assistance from social work services. Yet, for the vast majority of amputees, limb loss occurs in the context of a chronic condition, and is thus considered 'non-traumatic'. They receive limited - if any - psychological support, with most formal psychosocial services delivered by prosthetists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and social workers. Despite what this language suggests, the amputation itself often represents a violation of the body's organic boundaries, of losses which are embodied by the prosthesis and in the rehabilitation clinic. In this paper, I draw upon an ethnographic study of four Victorian amputee clinics to interrogate the tensions that are brought about through the language which is used to describe the etiology of amputation. Through this lens, I attend to the relational and affective implications of the changed material body, and highlight that the relationship between etiology and nomenclature undermines the distress associated with limb loss itself, regardless of why. In doing so, I highlight the blurring boundaries of lifestyle-related amputation between distress and depression, traumatic and non-traumatic, and the material and immaterial.

Panel P07
Anxious hope: life and death in hospital ethnography