THE MULTIPLE BODIES OF THE MEDICAL RECORD: Towards a Sociology of an Artifact
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THE MULTIPLE BODIES OF THE MEDICAL RECORD: Towards a Sociology of an Artifact

  • Author(s): Bowker, Geoffrey
  • et al.
Abstract

This paper argues that the medical record is an important focus for sociological research. In medical work, the modern patient's body Foucault has so aptly described is produced through embodied, materially heterogeneous work - and the medical record plays a crucial role in this production. It does not simply represent this body's history and geography: it is a central element in the material re-writing of these. Simultaneously, the record fulfills a core role in the production of a body politic. As the record is involved in the performance of the patient's body, it is also involved in the performance of the clinic in which that body comes to life. Finally, we argue that different records, different practices of reading and writing are intertwined with the production of different patient's bodies, bodies politic, and bodies of knowledge. As organizational infrastructure, the medical record affords the interplay and coordination of divergent worlds. Seen in this light, as a site where multiple stories about patients and about organizations are at stake (including the interoperability between these stories), the medical record becomes highly relevant both analytically and politically.

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