Professional identity and epistemic stress: complementary medicine in the academy

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Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) degrees in Australian and British universities have come under attack from sceptics who argue that such courses teach only ‘pseudoscience’. Moreover, CAM academics have themselves been publicly labelled ‘quacks’. Comparatively little is known about this group of health professionals who span the two worlds of CAM practice and academia. How do they navigate between these domains, and how are their collective and individual professional identities constructed? Drawing on 47 semi-structured interviews, this paper explores the professional identities of academics working in three university-based CAM disciplines in Australia and the UK: osteopathy, chiropractic and Chinese medicine. By analysing these individuals’ accounts, and building on prior research on health professions in the academy, the paper contributes to understanding how contests about professionalism and professional knowledge take place against the academic-practice divide. By focussing on a domain where knowledge claims are conspicuously contested, it highlights the salience of navigating ‘epistemic stress’ for both group and individual professional identity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-322
JournalHealth Sociology Review
Issue number3
Early online date21 Oct 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Oct 2019


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