SOC2056 The Sociology Of Health and Illness Student no: 140337604
Analyse the relationship between professional knowledge and ‘lay’ knowledge in the context of health and illness. Use examples to illustrate your understanding.
In accordance to health and illness within sociology, it can be stated that two types of knowledge exist, professional knowledge and ‘lay’ knowledge. Professional knowledge claims truth to disease and healing, which is supported by biomedicine. Lay knowledge on the other hand represents perspectives of health and illness outside that of biomedicine that are often influenced by peoples own experiences. A dynamic relationship exists between these two forms of knowledge as well as between the owners of each type of knowledge. Firstly, it can be argued that the position of knowledge is not fixed, as the existence of professional knowledge is dependent on lay knowledge. Secondly, focusing upon an example of ME, it can be argued that ownership of knowledge also fails to hold a fixed position. Nevertheless, issues of power are intrinsic to the medical system and therefore power relations are present between each form of knowledge and the perceived owners of that knowledge; an example of infertility in women illustrates how power relations exist within doctor patient relationships. Despite this, this essay will explore how individuals can resist medical power and thus regain control over their own healthcare throughout all medical examples including issues surrounding vaccination.
Professional knowledge represents the dominant ideas of health and illness that is widely accepted in the field of biomedicine and science. Most other forms of knowledge in relation to health and illness are largely discredited, whilst this type of knowledge claims truth to health above all others. Therefore, lay knowledge represents forms of knowledge held by individuals that may not necessarily adhere to the official narrative of health and illness implemented by biomedicine. It is knowledge acquired by individuals in everyday life and based upon personal health experiences (Henderson, 2010). However, Arksey (1994) argues that professional knowledge is not discovered by experts and then disseminated into wider society. Instead a dynamic relationship between professional and lay knowledge exists whereby definitions of each are continuously changing. She argues that the existence of professional knowledge originates from non-expert knowledge. Fleck (1979) illustrates this argument in a case study of syphilis in his work the Genesis and development of a Scientific Fact. He discussed how medical knowledge of the disease was the outcome of an exchange of ideas from specialists and lay individuals. Therefore, lay knowledge and lay individuals indirectly participate in creating specialised knowledge.
If professional and lay knowledge are seen to be continuously changing, the ownership of each form of knowledge can also seen to be...