Accepted Paper:

Anthropology of pain and suffering: ethical issues  

Author:

Alice Péters (Université Libre de Bruxelles)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses different ethical problems and methodological adjustments related to my ethnographical work on the social construction of therapeutic pain in the everyday interactions with healers, patients and their relatives (in both a Belgian and a British hospital).

Paper long abstract:

This paper approaches different ethical problems and methodological adjustments related to my ethnographical work on the social construction of therapeutic pain in the everyday interactions with healers, patients and their relatives. To begin with, I shall develop on the obstacles encountered when starting my two different field experiences, first in a Belgian hospital and then in a British one. Ethical conditions leading to the acceptance of my presence in these settings by bio-ethic Committees were strikingly different and have clearly influenced further fieldwork, in particular, the relationships with my interlocutors. In the second part of my paper, I will discuss epistemological and ethical questions of neutrality and transparency when doing ethnography of such delicate topics: how did my informants perceived my presence as an anthropologist in the hospital? And how did such perception influence my work? Also, how to put into words what I have observed without disclosing my interlocutors' intimacy? Above all, what does imply doing research with people in such a state of suffering?

Panel W037
Medical anthropological fieldwork: ethical and methodological issues