The ‘un-doing’ and ‘re-doing’ of nurses’ derealisation: Exploring the effects of the heroic keyworker discourses during the COVID-19 pandemic

Anna Conolly, Emma Rehman, Ruth Abrams, Ruth Harris, Daniel KELLY, Bridie Kent, Keith Couper, Jill Maben

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Abstract

Using, and extending, Butler’s theory of recognition and censorship, this article examines the way in which nurses’ subject positions were regulated in the transformative liminality of the COVID-19 pandemic, where normal matrices of power were ‘undone’ and new ones formed. During the pandemic, societal discourses regarding nurses shifted from treating them as less-than-human and their care-work invisible and unrecognised (derealised), to an elevated position where they became appreciated and treated as heroes, then reverting to a derealised state. As part of the building of subjectivities in this liminal period, nurses constructed boundaries against ‘unmoral’ others, either members of the public, or other nurses. This article highlights how the ‘derealisation’ by powerful discourses compels nurses into ongoing and ambivalent negotiations with self and others as they struggle to be recognised for the risky edgework they performed with lasting consequences for the nursing profession.
Original languageEnglish
JournalpuntOorg International Journal
Early online date4 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jan 2024

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