Talk about homeopathy: discursive strategies as ways to continually marginalise homeopathy from mainstream acceptance
Campbell, C. (2009) Talk about homeopathy: discursive strategies as ways to continually marginalise homeopathy from mainstream acceptance, no. 416.
Traditionally, quantifiable research into homeopathy has largely focused on its effectiveness compared to forms of mainstream medicine. The effect of such comparisons is that homeopathy is commonly constructed as not being demonstrably effective. It becomes discredited, demarcated and downgraded as an alternative 'type' of practice, subsequently marginalised in terms of mainstream acceptance. Qualitative studies concerned with homeopathy and focusing on notions of personal credibility, demarcation and the marginal are primarily concerned with practitioners' perspectives, where views are taken for granted and regarded as representative of accurate events. Thus, no study has focused on and investigated social constructions of homeopathic practice derived from practitioners, and their patients, in the semi-structured interview and in the context of the homeopathic consultation. Here, I identify and fill a gap in the literature which is currently under-represented. The corpus of twenty practitioners, seventeen patients and five homeopathic consultations drawn from interview and consultation contexts were recorded and subsequently transcribed verbatim. The innovative analytical framework is informed by discursive psychology perspectives that focus on accounts as action. Discourse analysis (DA) led to new, original and significant findings about how interpersonal experiences in relation to homeopathic practice are contingently formulated and constituted in interaction and configured over broader discourses. The analytical chapters show how talk about homeopathy is presented via four discursive strategies: by using the communicative competencies and descriptions they do, the participants' factual accounts function to enhance their own individual credibility and that of their practices, defend their practices and attend to the notion of personal accountability as a discursive practice. For those advocates for homeopathy, managing their personal credibility is accomplished only through sensitive ways of accounting. This reflects the way in which homeopathic practice is located in a culture of scepticism, as an alternative, contested and controversial 'type' of practice positioned on the fringe of the modern medical market. Demonstrating an understanding of homeopathy and their expectations of it as a form of treatment, participants draw upon dichotomised categories attributed to notions of mainstream medicine and homeopathy, combined with various discursive devices to add persuasiveness to their descriptions. Overall, the originality of the research lies in the application of the innovative interactional DA framework, its broad range of participants and unique findings from within the field of homeopathy. With several implications, it forms a unique interdisciplinary, theoretical, and methodological contribution to the DA literature. It has practical implications for future policy makers, in the education and training of practitioners, and offers ways to approach future research in homeopathic encounters and in parallel health-related encounters such as other CAM therapies, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Notably, the transferability of the findings has wider implications for the understanding of other contested, controversial and new medical practices in the ways that mainstream medicine is the taken-for-granted, accepted yardstick for practice. In making this distinction, the paradoxical boundaries of what is and what is not acceptable is seen as a central issue to members' mutually intelligible sense-making practices in everyday medical encounters.