Accepted Paper:

Staying attuned in professional intercorporealities: bodily ways of knowing in physical therapy   


Anne Gudrun Langaas (Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences)
Anne-Lise Middelthon (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

This paper addresses how students of physical therapy develop bodily ways of knowing during training. Descriptions and reflections on what bodies do and how they are done, infers that students develop more embodied bodies and competencies in staying attuned kinesthetically in intercorporealities.

Paper long abstract:

By investigating what bodies do and how bodies are done in various physical therapy training situations - emphasizing both reflection, observation and theorization - we were able to say something about what kind of knowledge the students acquire or incorporate. Part of the teaching in physical therapy is through the body, which implies that some of the core knowledge in physical therapy only can be acquired through bodies. As first author, my background as anthropologist, physical therapist and lecturer at a physical therapist training program, seems to be prerequisite to ask this this kind of question. Throughout the research process the second author and I have engaged in dynamic and dialogic reflections and explorations from both an insider and an outsider perspective. This has brought us close to the experiences under scrutiny, and assisted us in gaining the necessary analytical distance to the field. Students develop more embodied bodies, including bodily intentionality specific to physical therapy, and they become competent in staying kinesthetically attuned in professional intercorporealitites. Bodily ways of knowing often operate in a tacit and taken for granted manner, can be difficult (if not impossible) to articulate exhaustively in verbal language, and consequently will easily escape thematization. Physical therapists lack satisfactory verbal articulating tools both to express and to describe some of their knowledge, exactly because it operates implicitly through the habitual actions of their bodies. This calls for a professional way of qualifying incorporated knowledge. This paper draws on theories from Michael Polanyi, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone and Bruno Latour.

Panel MB-MT08
Phenomenal landscapes of care: ethnographic cases and methodological challenges of accounting for unspoken and unspeakable experiences