Theorising Camisation: The Case of Acupuncture and Homeopathy in Portugal

Monday, July 14, 2014: 8:30 PM
Room: F204
Oral Presentation
Joana ALMEIDA , Centre for Criminology & Sociology, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, United Kingdom
The aim of this paper is to present an ongoing project entitled ‘Towards the camisation of health? A theoretical and empirical framework for analysis’. My previous research focused on the countervailing power of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners in relation to Portuguese mainstream healthcare, having acupuncture and homeopathy as two case studies. It also developed the concept of ‘camisation’, which refers to the process of legitimising CAM treatments and solutions for everyday human problems. Camisation is closely related to the concept of ‘medicalisation’, the process whereby human problems come to be defined in medical terms. In Conrad’s (2007:5) words, ‘the key to medicalisation is definition. That is, a problem is defined in medical terms, described using medical language, understood through the adoption of a medical framework, or ‘treated’ with a medical intervention’. In a similar way, the key to camisation is also definition. CAM language, its framework and interventions are major elements in this process. Furthermore, while medicalisation has been encouraged by a faith in science and the prestige of the medical profession, camisation has been encouraged by the opposite tendencies, i.e. a lack of faith in science and the erosion of medical authority in society. Camisation can thus be seen as a counter trend to medicalisation and a step toward demedicalisation (although at the same time reinforcing medicalisation (Lowenberg and Davis,1985); furthermore, growing 'incorporation' (Saks,1995) of CAM in allopathic medical practice can also be leading to remedicalisation, by restoring the medical definition of certain health conditions. I want to develop this conceptual framework further. I also want to discuss the role of key actors in healthcare (the medical profession, the State and supra-State agencies, the lay populace and health corporations) whose countervailing actions can legitimate (or not) camisation and promote the demedicalisation or remedicalisation of certain health conditions in Portuguese society.