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Self, Agency and the Surgical Collective: detachment

Moreira, Tiago



In this article, I describe the socio-technical organisation of surgical rehabilitation. After having gone through surgical intervention, patients are implicated within various types of medical work aimed at adjusting their bodies to post-operative social and material environments. My argument is that the process of re-establishment of a 'self' is mediated through a re-disposition of agency in the socio-technical ensemble upon which the patient depends immediately after surgery. Drawing on one year of ethnographic fieldwork in a neurosurgical clinic, and theoretical resources from science and technology studies, this paper is an attempt to describe how, within surgical post-operative practices, the relational dynamics of social and material components endorsed within those practices may re-institute patients' sense of themselves, and re-organise their relationship with the world and other people. In surgery, the outcome of this dynamic process is the reorganisation of forms of agency for the patient. I will refer to this reorganisation as 'detachment'. It is my contention that this research may contribute to the literature on the experience of chronic illness by specifying the socio-technical conditions for the local achievement of self and agency.


Moreira, T. (2004). Self, Agency and the Surgical Collective: detachment. Sociology of Health & Illness, 26(1), 32-49.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2004-01
Deposit Date Dec 1, 2008
Journal Sociology of Health & Illness
Print ISSN 0141-9889
Electronic ISSN 1467-9566
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 26
Issue 1
Pages 32-49
Keywords Self, Agency, Surgery, Surgical, Recovery, Actor network theory.