The third speaker: The body as interlocutor in conventional, complementary, and integrative medicine encounters
Keywords:agency, biomedicine, body, clinical encounters, complementary/alternative medicine, micro-interaction
AbstractThis paper examines talk about the body in interactions between patients and their complementary/ alternative providers (CAM), integrative physicians (IM), or conventional physicians. In an analysis of 603 consultations, we focus on instances where the body is spoken of in agentive terms. We thus examine particular micro-interactive moments where the body is constituted as an agent that speaks, responds, and otherwise acts in ways that direct the flow of conversation or the medical decision-making process. With this data, we demonstrate how body-as-agent metaphors in the clinical encounter underscore the communicative agency of providers and position the body as an interlocutor or ‘third speaker’ in conversation with the patient and provider. We further note that we found only limited differences in the ways body-as-agent metaphors were used by CAM/IM and conventional providers. Rather than arguing that such differences demonstrate a fundamental divide between CAM/IM and conventional approaches, we therefore suggest that these kinds of supportive body-as-agent talk exist as opportunities for all providers to support patients in taking a more active stance in managing their relationship with their body.
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