On Slanderous Words and Bodies Out-of-Control: Hospital Humor and the Medical Carnivalesque

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Contribution to Book

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The Body in Medical Culture


SUNY Press

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Perhaps better than anybody, physicians and other health-care workers understand the vast difference between the ideology of biomedicine and reality. Michel Foucault's The Birth of the Clinic initially outlined the biomedical perspective and, since that time, how bodies are controlled, disciplined, monitored, contained, and presented in biomedical contexts has been the subject of vast amounts of research across both the humanities and the social sciences. Most of that research has illustrated how Western biomedical models attempt to achieve complete knowledge/control of the body by routinely objectifying and dehumanizing patients through any number of techniques common to most totalizing institutions, including the regulation of sleep, food, activity, environmental setting, and dress. Although such procedures are done under the guise of disease management - attempting to achieve balance between perceived states of normalcy and dysfunction - past research has revealed that biomedical models constitute a powerful means by which knowledges and ideologies, particularly about gender, race, and other measures of "normal" bodies, are produced and circulated.

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