2013. Tantchou. "Blurring Boundaries: Structural Constraints, Space, Tools, and Agency in an Operating Theater"


Abstract: "This study looks at the interactions between health workers, physical space, surgical tools, and the “patient-body” in an operating theater. My aim is to explore the approaches of Katz, Rawlings, and Collins and to show that when rituals, restrictive entrance procedures, and clothing requirements are not in place, when rules are not observed for reasons that this article addresses, the boundary between the operating theater and its surroundings blurs. It becomes a trivialized space. Data were collected in the regional hospital of one major town of the Extrême Nord of Cameroon. I describe a context of crisis and a lack of equipment and personnel that narrow the boundaries of the operating room (the limits of which are supposed to be kept sterile and isolated) but do not erase them. Restrictive entrance procedures, clothing requirements, rituals, and rules that are supposed to separate the operating theater from its surroundings, as Katz has shown, are not observed. Instead, the theater is connected to its surroundings through an “intriguing combination of practices” consistent with the analyses of Rawling and Collins. Thus, the operating theater is not a closed and limited area inside the hospital that can be completely isolated from its surroundings. There is continuity between the interior and the exterior."

Keywords: surgery, sterility, boundaries, operating theater


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Contributed date

May 17, 2018 - 7:38pm

Critical Commentary

AO: This 2013 article by Josiane Carine Tantchou looks at the interactions between health workers, physical space, surgical tools, and the “patient-body” in an operating theater in Cameroon.