The Power of Medical Language and Social Justice Principles

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Presented at the Language as a Social Justice Issue Conference. Held on the 26th November, 2014 at Edith Cowan University, Joondalup Campus, Perth, Western Australia.


We are social being, not just in the trivial sense that we like company, and not just in the obvious sense that we each depend on others. We are social in a more fundamental way: simply to exist as a normal human being requires interaction with other people and most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others. Thus communication and social interactions constitute the core of our social life. Within this context, symbols are considered to be cultural representations of social realities. Perhaps the most powerful of all symbols is language.

There are different approaches to language study. However from sociology of language perspective, I consider language as part of “cultural capital”, as Pierre Bourdieu puts it. Within this perspective, I view Medical language as a discourse: a form of social practice within the context of Doctor-patients interactions. The primary aim of this paper is, then, to discuss how the use of the Medical language may undermine social justice principles within this domain. Further aim is to argue how medical language has transforming power and ‘creating social reality’ and this in-turn further undermining social justice principles.

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