“Look under the sheets!” Fighting with the senses in relation to defecation and bodily care in hospitals and care institutions

van der Geest, Sjaak and Zaman, Shahaduz (2020) “Look under the sheets!” Fighting with the senses in relation to defecation and bodily care in hospitals and care institutions. Medical Humanities. pp. 1-9. ISSN 1468-215X

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Abstract

This essay focuses on sensory aspects of care in situations surrounding defecation in hospitals and other care institutions. Sensory activity does not merely encompass pleasant experiences that enhance healing and well-being. Anthropologists—and other disciplines as well—have paid little attention to unpleasant and disgusting experiences that our senses meet and that may rather increase pain and suffering in the context of care. Our essay therefore reflects on a common but highly uncomfortable aspect of being a—sometimes bedridden—patient: defecation. The sensory effects of human defecation are well known. They affect at least four of the five traditional senses. But equally repulsive are the social and emotional effects that defecation in a hospital context has on both patients and professional and other care providers. The essay is based on anthropological observations and the authors’ personal experiences in Bangladesh, Ghana and the Netherlands and covers a wide variety of cultural and politicoeconomic conditions. It further draws on (scarce) scientific publications as well as on fictional sources. Extensive quotations from these various sources are presented to convey the lived sensorial experience of disgust and overcoming disgust more directly to the reader.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Global Health and Infection
Research Centres and Groups: Brighton and Sussex Centre for Global Health Research
Depositing User: Manuela Mcdermid
Date Deposited: 07 Apr 2020 07:20
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2020 13:15
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/90721

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