Shiatsu practitioners: Forging a path through a landscape of practice

Spurr, Sue (2015). Shiatsu practitioners: Forging a path through a landscape of practice. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 7(6) p. 694.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eujim.2015.11.015

Abstract

Introduction: This paper presents the findings from a doctoral study of Shiatsu as a distinct type of healthcare practice.

Situated within the sociology of the professions as the wider academic context, the study focuses on Shiatsu practitioners and the process of professionalisation in relation to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Neo-Weberian theory is used to examine the field of CAM, highlighting its marginalisation by the medical profession. What counts as legitimate knowledge is raised as an important question in relation to the process of professionalisation and CAM.

Methods: Ethnography and narrative inquiry form the basis of the methodological approach. Concepts of ‘social positioning’ and ‘turning points’ provide important theoretical considerations of the analytic framework.

Results: Participants’ pathways through a ‘landscape of practice’ highlighted key tensions and turning points in relation to a trajectory of ‘Getting into Shiatsu’ and ‘Getting out there to practise Shiatsu’, particularly in respect of the status of knowledge and earning a living as a Shiatsu practitioner. These tensions are discussed in the context of professionalisation, and highlight some of the wider structural factors – for example the interface of Shiatsu with the NHS, other CAM practices as well as society in general. The issue of marginalisation provides a connection between Etienne Wenger-Trayner’s concept of landscapes of practice and neo-Weberian theory in relation to CAM practices. The experiences of participants in this study are potentially relevant to other practitioners not only in other marginalised emerging professions but also practitioners in more established professions.

Conclusion: This paper is of particular relevance to debates in relation to the sociology of the professions providing a different lens through which to examine the experiences of professional groups within the 21st century UK healthcare arena.

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