The ‘Localised' Dimension of Professionalisation: A Comparative Analysis of Acupuncture and Homeopathy in the UK and Portugal

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 16:24
Location: Hörsaal 32 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Joana ALMEIDA, School of Law, Criminology and Sociology, Royal Holloway, University of London, United Kingdom
Assaf GIVATI, School of Health Sciences & Social Work, University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom
Sociological research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has focused on CAM practitioners’ efforts to professionalise within biomedically-dominated healthcare systems. Structural changes and alterations in the knowledge or content of work have been main aspects of CAM’s professionalisation process. This research emphasises a third, often overlooked, aspect: the role of the geographical setting and its distinct context.

This research has four objectives: (1) to compare the evolvement of the professionalisation of CAM in two European countries, the UK and Portugal; (2) to identify parallels and differences to this process in these two countries; (3) to discuss the role of political, historical, economic and cultural context in explaining such parallels and differences; (4) to contribute to a multi-layered analysis of CAM’s professionalisation in Western societies. Acupuncture and homeopathy will be used as case-studies. The analysis draws on empirical data gathered between 2008-2015 in the UK and Portugal. In-depth interviews with traditional acupuncture and classical homeopathy practitioners and educators, documentary analysis of regulation policies, and participant observation of teaching, have been the methods of data collection.

A preliminary analysis of the data suggests different levels of state intervention and control in CAM’s regulation in the UK and Portugal. There are also considerable differences in terms of stages of formalisation of education in both countries: while in the UK CAM’s undergraduate programmes were established already in the 1990s but have recently witnessed a significant rejection and decline, in Portugal, prompted by government regulation, they have recently been created.

This comparative approach can help identify country-specific forces to CAM’s professionalisation. Furthermore, it can extend national-level ideas about what is possible within CAM’s professionalisation process and contribute to developing a typology of CAM’s professionalisation in Western societies.