Accepted paper:

Shifts in medical work following the Fukushima disaster

Authors:

Sudeepa Abeysinghe (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

This paper draws on interview data to examine changes in medical professional practice following the Fukushima disaster. These changes included the development of new forms of expertise, the stretching of expertise, and the rise of new relationships between the medical workers and their community.

Paper long abstract:

Risk and uncertainty can destabilise the relationships between medicine, policy and publics. Through semi-structured interviews with medical staff following the Fukushima Triple Disaster, this paper demonstrates the way in which disruption (caused by disaster), coupled with uncertainty (in this case, around radiation risk) serves to problematise risk management policy. After Fukushima, a deficit in publicly trusted approaches to disaster management meant that the role and status of key medical professionals was transformed. This reorganisation of medical work included the development of new forms of expertise, the stretching of expertise beyond previously well-defined professional boundaries, and shifts in the way in which medical professionals understand and interact with publics. These changes signified the rise of new relationships between the medical workers and their community, as well as adjustments in the what was regarded as the boundaries of medical work. Given both the ubiquitous threat of disasters and more general calls for increased engagement between the medicine and the public, this case study provides insight into the forms which such engagements can take, especially when bound by conditions of uncertainty. The paper draws upon the theoretical literature around the impact of uncertainty on policy, and combines this with medical sociological literature on the nature of medical expertise. The paper examines the shifting of medical expertise towards mode 2 forms, and evidences the impact of a democratised science of risk on the roles and functions of medical practice.

panel A24
Disasters and participation: inventive/disruptive encounters