Tinkering with Time versus Being under the Spell of Time

Med Anthropol. 2022 Feb-Mar;41(2):215-227. doi: 10.1080/01459740.2021.2002856. Epub 2021 Dec 22.


Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork in a Danish pediatric oncology ward we explore how children - as cancer patients - respond to the time constraints of cancer treatment that may save their lives but simultaneously hold them under a spell of time. Children respond through practices of what we have called "tinkering with time," which enable them to seize control not of life, but of time. We suggest that tinkering be understood as time work through which children mold their experience of the constraints of time. We regard this as an expression of existential agency that simultaneously sustains children's sense of autonomy.

Keywords: Denmark; autonomy; childhood cancer; existence; time; tinkering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anthropology, Cultural*
  • Anthropology, Medical
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms*