This paper is about social and symbolic boundaries (Lamont & Molnar 2002). The aim of this paper is to suggest a theoretical way to understand constructions of ‘Otherness’ within professional boundaries. I draw on the empirical case of the doctors with immigrant backgrounds in the Swedish medical profession and use the notion of critical construction site by Cornell & Hartmann 2007.
In order to bridge the gap between structure and agency the study started with a review of the Swedish research literature in order to see how ‘ethnicity’, ‘race and ‘Otherness’ had been received in research. In this review I found that ‘Otherness’ is often something that is ascribed to patients and not doctors. I then went on reviewing the professional debate around the issue of doctors with immigrant backgrounds in Sweden I found something what I theorized as underlying assumptions of ‘the Other’. This ethnic ‘Otherness’ was not about doctors ‘ethnicity’ nor about ‘race’ instead it had to do with that the doctors had immigrated and was perceived as something sable and predetermined.
This notion of ‘Otherness’ was later also found in interviews with doctors with immigrant backgrounds. In the interviews I expectantly found stories of discrimination, prejudice and even racism but I also found stories of agency, and coping strategies where the ‘Otherness’ they were ascribed with was used a way to construct their role in the Swedish health care system; to take care of patients with immigrant backgrounds.
The paper theorise this as doctors with immigrant backgrounds seem to be using a primordial definition of ‘the Other’ in circumstantial ways in order to find their place within the Swedish medical profession which I argue, is a critical construction site.
2014. 847-847 p.
XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology: Facing an Unequal World, Yokohama, Japan, July 13-19, 2014