Creative Work

October 23, 2020

Resuscitation fascination: Rubbing up against clinical responsibility

Renee van der Wiel

This essay brings together written and visual snippets of several years of fieldwork amongst clinicians at public teaching hospitals across Johannesburg. I reflect on moments of fascination about, and even envy of, the responsibility and thrill these doctors experienced in the preservation of breath. A set of pencil rubbings included in this essay provide a means to contemplate the distance between the field and the ethnographer, who can only ever rub up against and get an impression of this kind of medical work. I also recalibrate my previous moments of fascination in light of the COVID-19 crisis, as distinctive from more usual clinical emergencies in a dysfunctional public healthcare system.

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Renee van der Wiel

About Renee van der Wiel

Renée van der Wiel is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Anthropology and Development Studies at the University of Johannesburg. Renée was awarded a Mellon Foundation Medical Humanities Doctoral Fellowship at the Wits Institute of Social and Economic Research (WISER). Her doctorate in anthropology was an ethnography of South African medical doctors who produce clinical research over and above their duties as healers and teachers. Prior to that Renee conducted research on breast cancer treatment at a public hospital in Johannesburg as well as international ova donation involving young South African women. She has held posts as a sessional lecturer, writing consultant, curriculum revisor, and undergraduate academic mentor, across University of the Witwatersrand, North-West University, Duke University (Organisation for Tropical Studies), and Varsity College. She has been a research assistant in the fields of sociology, medical history and surgery.