, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 87-108

Medical Intellectuals: Resisting Medical Orientalism

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Abstract

In this paper, we propose analogies between medical discourse and Edward Said's “Orientalism.” Medical discourse, like Orientalism, tends to favor institutional interests and can be similarly dehumanizing in its reductionism, textual representations, and construction of its subjects. To resist Orientalism, Said recommends that critics—“intellectuals”—adopt the perspective of exile. We apply Said's paradigm of intellectual-as-exile to better understand the work of key physician-authors who cross personal and professional boundaries, who engage with patients in mutually therapeutic relationships, and who take on the public responsibility of representation and advocacy. We call these physician-authors “medical intellectuals” and encourage others to follow in their path.