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Wuttke, Nora (2024) Drawing, Writing, Buildings: An Ethnography of Yangon General Hospital. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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How to write about, represent in text, an institution like a public hospital? As with many anthropological subjects, the hospital is large and complex, and never usually seen or understood as a whole. This thesis takes up this challenge, proposing an ethnography with buildings. By presenting an ethnographic study of Myanmar’s main public tertiary care teaching hospital through drawing and writing buildings, this thesis proposes a holistic engagement with the hospital’s daily life; a commitment to “the hospital multiple”, a term borrowed from the Somatosphere series of the same name (Chabrol & Kehr 2020), while building conceptually on Annemarie Mol’s Body Multiple (2002). This thesis is an ethnographic study of the daily life of Yangon General Hospital by way of its buildings, materials, and practices that constitute a hospital. In this, turning my attention to (often unnoticed) “spaces in-between”, located between buildings and bailiwicks, the thesis offers original insights into the flows of social interaction these spaces accommodate, and are essential for healthcare. In this regard, I am re-evaluating how we understand hospitals, large and complex public institutions, by conceptualising buildings/hospitals through drawing and writing. Experimenting with different lines on paper, drawings and text, I attempt to capture the hospital as a whole and in its parts, making a novel methodological and epistemological contribution to the idea of writing with, and alongside, buildings. I situate this task adjacent to discussions on “writing culture,” “women writing culture”, “writing society”, and “writing lives”; questions of how to write anthropologically. How to write ethnography in today’s world. The challenge here is to explore what is gained by looking at a hospital from the point of view of its buildings. This question inhabits the space between architectural practice, ways of seeing, and the anthropological craft of ethnographic narrative that all come together in this dissertation.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Edward Simpson
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2024 13:20

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