Hospital ethnography: introduction

Soc Sci Med. 2004 Nov;59(10):1995-2001. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.03.004.


The introduction sets out two central ideas around which this collection of articles on hospital ethnography has been organised. The first is that hospitals are not identical clones of a global biomedical model. Hospitals take on different forms in different cultures and societies. Medical views and technical facilities may vary considerably leading to different diagnostic and therapeutic traditions. The second idea, related to the first, is that biomedicine and the hospital as its foremost institution is a domain where the core values and beliefs of a culture come into view. Hospitals both reflect and reinforce dominant social and cultural processes of their societies. The authors further discuss some methodological and ethical complexities of doing fieldwork in a hospital setting and present brief summaries of the contributions, which deal with hospitals in Ghana, South Africa, Bangladesh, Mexico, Italy, The Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Egypt and Lebanon.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anthropology, Cultural*
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology
  • Hospital Administration*
  • Humans
  • Internationality
  • Organizational Culture*
  • Social Values / ethnology
  • Sociology, Medical*