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Accepted Paper:

Could anthropologists also become translation tools in therapeutic relationships?   
Matteo Fano (E.H.E.S.S. Marseille) Carlotta Magnani (EHESS Marseille) Cyril Farnarier (LaSSA)

Paper short abstract:

Ethnographic practice provides anthropologists with tools for understanding the determinants of agents’ behaviours within a therapeutic relationship. Our paper will discuss the use of this knowledge to improve communication between the actors.

Paper long abstract:

In a therapeutic relationship, both informed consent for treatment and operative compliance may be difficult to achieve. Limits to mutual comprehension between a physician and his/her patient (such as reciprocal interpretations that are unconsciously arbitrary) can explain this difficulty.

Indeed, communication is ostensive-inferential act: the listener has to interpret the message. This cognitive process deals with the part of knowledge that "comes to the (conscious) mind" at the moment of the verbal exchange. This exchange is related to the context of communication and to the listener's aims. When the latter reaches an interpretation that seems coherent with these factors, s/he takes it for true and stops elaborating. This interpretation could be wrong or partial, but something has to make the contradiction manifest for this hiatus to appear.

Through ethnographic practice, one can study everyone's speech from a pragmatic perspective. This approach has different aims than the medical one and allows observing the agents before, during and after the medical consultation. It could thus enable a better understanding of the determinants of actors' behaviours and, of course, lead to translating more effectively one's signifier into the others' signified. Can anthropologists share this knowledge with the actors in order to reach, through collaboration between social and cognitive sciences, a better reciprocal understanding? This is the question we would like to address.

Panel P093
Anthropology as translation: working misunderstandings?
  Session 1