Pot and power : the role of the nonhuman in a very human business
The daily care and nursing of people of various ages with disabilities or illnesses con-stitutes historical and contemporary socio-cultural contexts which are said to be hu-man-centered. The formation of practices, politics, and the distribution of knowledge within care and nursing has always been deeply intertwined with the very formation of ... culture and cultures. This is apparent when focusing upon issues of cleanliness in nursing and care, which are considered to be civilized and cultured, and includes the way we handle excrement. Notwithstanding, there is a profound lack of understanding of the significance and impact that non-humans, such as material objects, had and have in nursing interactions. Based on empirical research on historical and contempo-rary institutional settings of the dirty work of nursing (derived from material culture studies, object-centered historical analyses, and multi-sited ethnography), we analyze the complex intermingling of humans and artifacts in the delicate endeavor of sup-ported excretion. As we will show, material objects do play a significant role in sup-porting those that are unable to undertake their (delicate) business autonomously. However, they also help to transform the dirty work of supported excretion into an object-controlled mode of action.
Original publication in
On_culture: the open journal for the study of culture 2 (2016)