Invisible Pain: Experiences of Epistemic Injustice in Swedish Healthcare Encounters
Ms Elin NordinZoom
The aim with this paper is to analyze how cultural and social structures affect medical knowledge production in Swedish healthcare encounters. From an ethnological perspective, using ethnographic methods and a phenomenological approach, I examine testimonies of healthcare encounters, shared by patients experiencing that their reports of pain and complications are not taken seriously by healthcare practitioners, as well as a lack of knowledge about their conditions making it hard for them to understand and communicate what they are going through. The ethnographic data consists of in-depth interviews with female patients seeking help for injuries following childbirth, side effects of hormonal contraceptives and diagnoses such as endometriosis and vulvar vestibulitis.
Healthcare encounters can be understood as cultural processes, in which medical assessments are affected by normative views of pain and suffering among different groups; by which bodies are norm within medical practice and research; and by social and cultural perceptions of what is normal and natural. In the analysis, along with an intersectional perspective, I use the concept of epistemic injustice, which in healthcare contexts can show how some patients’ testimonies are deemed less credible than others’ due to prejudices, and some conditions, bodies and experiences are less researched and understood.