Monday June 17, 2019
9.30 – 16.30 Room 101, 30 Russell Square, Birkbeck College, University of London
Lisa, our PI, will be speaking as part of this symposium in response to the work of Professor Lisa Guenther and her book Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives (2013). Professor Guenther is visiting Birkbeck as part of the Hidden Persuaders (Birkbeck) and Pathologies of Solitude (Queen Mary) programmes of research.
For more info on the event, and to book tickets, please click here.
Lisa will be talking about her book Enduring Time at Goldsmiths later this month. This is free event and no registration is required.
314, Third Floor, Professor Stuart Hall Building
10 June, 2019
17.00 – 19.00
Drawing on recent work on ‘enduring time’ in this talk I revisit Julia Kristeva’s 1979 essay Women’s Time, reading it against contemporary theories of time and gender to develop a notion of a ‘maternal death drive’. Kristeva conceptualized female subjectivity as strung out between cyclical time (repetition) and monumental time (eternity without cleavage or escape). These two ‘feminine’ forms of time work to conceal the inherent logic of teleological historical ‘masculine’ time which is linear, progressive, unfolding, and yet constantly rupturing, an ‘anguished’ time. Masculine time, Kristeva argues, rests on its own stumbling block, which is death.
What if historical time is no longer ‘unfolding’, progressive or linear, but is ‘foreclosed’ by the immanent disasters of capitalism? If we are now living in a suspended present in which time fails to unfold, then the tension between masculine and feminine time is radically altered. Historical time itself becomes monumental, and feminine time no longer sutures the future in the figure of the child, as Lee Edelman argued in No Future (2004), but articulates a kind of dynamic chronicity, alive to the potentials of not moving on, but without giving up on the ethical principle of one’s own future being bound up with the future of another. From this perspective a ‘maternal death drive’ drives a wedge between the repetitive return to inertia of Freud’s death drive, and the heteronormative developmental time line of reproduction that queer theories of temporality have worked to disrupt. What comes to matter, when time is suspended in its maternal form, is the time of mattering itself – the time it takes for us to come to matter to one another in a suspended present with no future.
Our PI Lisa will be talking as part of this event at Birkbeck.
Keynes Library, Birkbeck School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, WC1H 0PD
Thursday, 6 June, 2019
Experiences and practices of care have changed dramatically in the past three decades. Since the passing of the NHS and Community Care Act (1990), healthcare, social care and short-term psychiatric care have been increasingly decentralised and delivered ‘in the community’. This shift has been both practical and discursive: altering the pathways by which care is accessed and the sites in which it is received; and changing perceptions surrounding the role of those receiving care in wider society. In the case of mental healthcare for example, it has led us to move from the ‘mental patient’ to the ‘service user’ as labels that define the relationship between persons receiving care and those providing it.
Thirty years on, community care continues to be a fraught subject. On the one hand, it has been seen as having a democratizing influence, opening up the possibility for greater patient choice, and of integrating patients’ and service-users’ voices into care provision. On the other, it continues to be viewed as a chaotic cost-cutting exercise which leaves vulnerable people to fall through the cracks.
‘Conversations on Care and/in the Community’ symposium invites researchers to engage in a series of conversations surrounding these new social and spatial conditions of care in the twenty-first century.
The event is wheelchair accessible. Please contact the organiser if you have any other access requirements.
[Image credit: Hedley Finn, The Kings Fund, Wellcome Collection]
At a time when expertise is under increasing assault, we’re keen to establish meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships between researchers, pracitioners and policymakers, and to explore the opportunities for our research to have lasting, valuable impact on policy formation.
Whether in pop culture or academic work, time and space have often been inextricably linked. Though the Waiting Times team has been thinking about temporality in ways that breaks – or at least complicates – this connection, one space that I have been thinking about recently has been the general practice waiting room.
The work I have been doing has been to consider how such spaces and associations came to be. Much like the medical appointment, the waiting room is an historical construction. It is a space which only began to receive sustained public attention in Britain with the collectivisation of healthcare funding under National Health Insurancein 1913, and which practitioners only began to think about substantively following the creation of the health service after 1948.
The creation of the NHS was particularly important, with the removal of insurance principles or payment barriers increasing the demand on premises that had not been designed to hold large numbers of patients: many practices in 1948 were in small converted shop premises or in a GP’s house. The latter might have the dining room as a waiting area, but patients waiting outside either type of premises was not uncommon.
The NHS also made criticisms of health services a problem for central government – leading politicians to apply pressure for reform – as well as drawing much firmer lines between general practice and hospital practice, forcing GPs to think about how to distinguish themselves professionally.
The post-war settlement and the waiting room
The way that the NHS brought attention to the waiting room often meant that discussions were framed in relation to the promises of – and discontents with – what some historians refer to as the post-war settlement.
With regards to healthcare, elite practitioners and organised professional bodies like the British Medical Association had opposed the NHS as conceived by the Labour government in 1948. Among other things, they feared that state employment would result in a loss of income, professional freedom, and unmediated professional-patient relationships.
GPs in particular continued to criticise the new service into the early 1950s.
Some complained about a loss of class deference and professional status, of being treated by patients as servants or ‘suppliers of medicines’ rather than as a medical advisers or even as friends.
They also argued that, by removing financial barriers to care, the NHS created demanding and entitled patients. Patients would allegedly enter the consulting room ‘‘to tell us what is wrong and what [they] want for it’.
These anxieties about status and the shifting relations of medicine were played out in discussions of waiting rooms.
Reports were sent to central government departments about patients who would ‘tear out pages of periodicals in the waiting room, grind sticky sweets into the carpet, take cushions, and even carve their initials on the furniture’. One GP appealed to the Ministry of Health to make ‘it quite clear to the general public that a doctor’s waiting-room is not a place of public entertainment, but rather a place where people are expected to behave with a certain amount of respect and decorum’.
The focus on patient behaviour and deference was indicative of the class-bound anxieties of some GPs, many of whom would have previously had separate entrances and waiting spaces for private patients and those receiving publicly-funded care. No longer able to segregate their patients, some doctors were still so concerned about working class patients bringing dirt into waiting rooms that they even used interior design to prevent ‘greasy heads’ marking walls, and praised the durability of flooring to stand up to workmen’s boots.
The challenges of writing histories of the waiting room
There is still much to explore about how waiting rooms were thought about and redeveloped over the twentieth century. However, researching the subject so far has not proven straightforward.
Methodologically, I have faced problems familiar to many social and cultural historians. The “archives” of general practice waiting rooms are hardly substantial, and have been largely created or curated by medical professionals, civil servants, and media editors. Equally, their materials are predominantly composed of digressions about waiting rooms made in discussions about other topics, or are made up of complaints that reveal expectations and social norms only by their absence or negation.
The dominance of complaints from “establishment” groups, however, has also posed other challenges, causing me to reflect on my own subjectivity and affective responses to sources.
As a social historian, I share my field’s political and intellectual sympathies to histories of marginalised groups, as well as its critical disposition to power and professional self-interest. Likewise, as someone who has grown up with – and been a long-term beneficiary of – the NHS, I have been interpellated by its core ideals (if not lived practice) of universal healthcare, free at the point of use.
As a result, GPs’ grievances initially struck me as exaggerated, underpinned by a sense of superiority to patients, and indicative of an opposition to any form of egalitarianism from professionals with considerable class privilege.
Indeed, surveys conducted at the time provided some support for this reading, with one prominent medical observer noting that ‘some general practitioners are so easily irritated by such an attitude [of entitlement and lack of respect among patients] that they are apt to think it more widespread than it actually is’.
My first engagement with these materials, therefore, was to read criticisms primarily for the way they provided insight to the reception of the post-war welfare state, and for the strategic purpose the played inprofessional and political projects.
Nonetheless, further exploration and consideration has brought home the importance of maintaining critical reflection on my own subjectivity and affective responses.
Historically, it was not just doctors who were sceptical or anxious about the NHS. State provision had not been welcomed by everyone. For instance, though many were quickly convinced of the NHS’s advantages, a significant proportion of the British public were initially concerned about the potential loss of ‘the personal touch’ in state-funded medicine.
Moreover, though there is a clear element of performativity in GPs’ complaints, in reading them differently I have also begun to tease out insights into the culture of the early health service – the way its proposed radicalism was filtered through inherited buildings and beliefs, the presumptive middle-class norms behind ideas of universality, and the ways that attitudes towards patients were slowly built into the very fabric of the service.
Even more varied readings are possible, ones that might reveal more about the everyday life of post-war Britain. Complaints about demanding patients, for example, could provide insight into the complexities of the psychological life of traditional middle-class groups in a period of rising affluence but concern about relative decline. Similarly, reading discussions about nailed boots and greasy heads for indicators of patient behaviour might generate insight into the changing nature of work and housing, or shifting social norms about self-presentation in public spaces, if read over time.
However, changing the way I engage with sources and the questions I ask has required more than a change in methodology or conceptualisation.
I have had to maintain an awareness of my own position in academic and political fields. I have had to reflect on how my work has been informed by my own psychological investments in the NHS and its proposed values, as well as by my attachment or critical disposition towards certain professional groups.
Of course, undertaking practices of self-reflection is not the same as striving for “objectivity”, or somehow overcoming my position as an historically-formed subject. Instead, it is to realise that a critical disposition towards the historian’s subjectivity can open up new questions and new avenues for research.
Who would have thought that even just thinking about waiting rooms (rather than being forced to wait within one) could encourage such existential questions? (Bergson, put your hand down – no-one likes a show-off.)
Committed to the End: On Care Work and Rereading
Professor Elizabeth Freeman (University of California, Davis)
B01 Clore Management Centre
18.00 – 20.00 Friday, 24 May 2019
Professor Elizabeth Freeman – a leading queer theorist and author of Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories – will be giving a lecture on the intersections between the spatiotemporalities of domestic fiction, re-reading and care taking at Birkbeck on 24 May, 2019.
The is a free event but booking is required via the Eventbrite page. Tickets are limited so sign up quickly.
Our PI Lisa Baraitser is presenting at this international conference at the University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht on 7 May, 2019.
The conference – the third organised by the Concerning Maternity network – explores the lived experience of pregnant and maternal subjectivity. It will bring together writers, mothers, midwives, and academics in midwifery theory, philosophy, care-ethics, and psychosocial theory.
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