Health Discourse, Ruling Relations and Work Knowledge

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 8:30 AM
Room: 424
Oral Presentation
Shiho SATO , Department of Cultural and Social Studies, The Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway
Research in Institutional Ethnography (IE) has increasingly shown how institutional discourse frames the way individuals think and act within their everyday practices.  For example, Luken and Vaughen provide compelling evidence that state affiliated organizations created a discourse about family housing that structured parents talk and actions concerning their living arrangements (2006, 300).  This further highlights those ruling relations that served to organize parent’s daily family life.   

This presentation will argue that an analogous case can be made in relation to modern discourses involving the use of ‘health’ and ‘physical activity’.  It focuses on the case of rural female workers who live outside the mainstream conceptions of health and physical activity. Very little is known about these rural communities and the kind of contributions that women make in these environments.  My aim is to explicate some of the ruling relations that organize work activities in relation to women’s health in these different cultural settings.

A key resource for this research is the concept ‘work knowledge’.  ‘Work’ in IE points to anything that requires time and effort, that is conducted under specific conditions with specific resources and which may need to be thought about.   This view helps the institutional ethnographer stay focused on what people are actually doing and what it is that they need to carry out their work.  I show how it is especially suited to examining how women in rural communities think, plan and feel about the kind of work and physical activity that they engage in.  I further demonstrate how work, health and physical activity are not isolated as in urban settings and explore what consequences this has on the way ruling relations influence rural female attitudes to work and health.