Stethoscapes: Listening to Hearts in a London Hospital

Rice, Tom. 2006. Stethoscapes: Listening to Hearts in a London Hospital. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis is about the stethoscope, and its use in the production and reproduction of bodies. It incorporates two ethnographic strands, sited at each end of the stethoscope. Firstly, the thesis engages with medical students as they begin to learn a new kind of listening. The thesis explores the shaping of the senses which medical training brings about, and positions 'auscultation' as productive of a particular kind of (acoustically) perceiving body. The emphasis placed on auscultation in medical training is seen to reflect the historical importance of auditory knowledge in the medical imagination of the anatomical body and in the mapping of its interior. At the same time, students adopt the postures of doctors in this training and so the stethoscope's importance in the generation of the medical 'habitus' is also highlighted. The instrument is seen to be important in producing and reproducing the respective roles of doctors and patients.

The dissertation explores a second major ethnographic strand through examining contexts in which doctors, medical students and, particularly, patients begin to relate to their own interiority through sound. They apprehend the acoustic dimensions, not of abstract or conceptually distant bodies, but of their own immediate, lived and experienced bodies in unexpected and sometimes disturbing ways. The imagination of the body, then, in both formal and more immediately experiential terms, takes on an acoustic dimension within the context of the hospital and the diagnostic procedures encountered there. The thesis argues that the concept of 'acoustemology' may offer a new way of thinking about 'the body', reflecting the importance of sound in the manner in which it is lived, imagined and known.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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stethoscopes, listening, sound, medical students, doctors, patients, ethnography, acoustemology, the body

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Date Deposited:

06 Jul 2020 13:26

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 15:46


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