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It isn't something to yodel about, but it exists! Faeces, nurses, social relations and status within a mental hospital

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In medical settings, emotion-provoking work creates a hierarchy among health care professionals. "Lower" emotions like disgust, contempt or aversion that are evoked by "body work" with elderly patients often remain invisible, but they play an important role in morality and shape the social relations between the patients and the professionals. With the help of ethnographic data from the nursing wards of a mental hospital, the author shows how feelings about excrement are determined not only by their nature, but also by the nature of the relationships among the nurses and the relationships between the nurses and the elderly patients. Body care and the emotions that are evoked are connected to morality and moral care. Dealing with bodily and moral "dirt" gives nurses a special position within the hospital as a whole, which will have effects on the care for elderly.

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: Medical Anthropology Unit, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: August 1, 2001

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