Centre for Health, Technologies and Social Practice

Thesp Seminar: Dr Daryl Martin ‘Between bodies and buildings: the place of comfort within therapeutic spaces’

Date: Tuesday 9th December 2014

Time: 1:30-2:30

Location: Social Sciences Building, Room 12.21

Speaker: Dr Daryl Martin, University of York


In this paper, I focus on the ways in which comfort has been discussed in my research with visitors and staff members of Maggie’s, an organisation which provides practical, emotional and social support for people with cancer, their families and friends. The paper will offer a brief description of Maggie’s, the origins of its work and the integral role of architecture and spatial design to the services it offers. The narrative account of a cancer diagnosis by its founder prompts comparisons with how the impact of medical technologies and institutional processes on the experience of illness has been understood by medical sociologists. Reference to these debates will be engaged, in order to open out a discussion of comfort as an important heuristic device when thinking about the experience of care. I make use of David Bissell’s understanding of comfort as a highly complex sensibility, where comfort is enacted through the interactions and relations between individual bodies, objects and environments. Bissell’s multiple definitions of comfort are set into dialogue empirically with data from my research across Maggie’s sites, and the importance of comfort within my participants’ experience of their Centres is explored. Ultimately, comfort is presented as an achievement of professional practice and spatial design, and an accomplishment through the co-production of these places by their visitors and volunteers, and the experiences they bring.

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