Title

The Problem of Individualism in Occupational Science: A Critique and Way Forward

Presenter Information

Virginia Dickie
Malcolm P. Cutchin

Start Time

31-10-2004 8:30 AM

End Time

31-10-2004 10:00 AM

Abstract

Occupational therapy and occupational science have correctly recognized both person and context in the performance of occupations. The disciplines have nonetheless tended to focus on the singular individual as both influencing and being influenced by context while somehow standing apart from that context. Meaning that purportedly resides solely within the individual often has been reified as if it is the whole of occupational experience. Yet if we are to understand occupation as an integral part of a dynamic whole that is life itself, the duality of person and context cannot stand and the elevation of personal meaning to be the core of occupational engagement must be questioned. In this paper we develop a theoretical critique of what we consider to be an overemphasis on the individual in occupational science. Moreover, we use empirical examples from our research that further call this emphasis to question. We then present a problematic: how can we conceptualize situated individuals, engaging in occupation, in a manner that allows for robust research and captures the complexity and holism of occupation? We use John Dewey's philosophy, and his conception of "situations" in particular, to begin working through the problematic. We focus on Dewey's view of situations as inherently relational in character to provide some suggestions about how occupation may be conceived as less individual, and therefore more social and cultural, in nature.

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Oct 31st, 8:30 AM Oct 31st, 10:00 AM

The Problem of Individualism in Occupational Science: A Critique and Way Forward

Occupational therapy and occupational science have correctly recognized both person and context in the performance of occupations. The disciplines have nonetheless tended to focus on the singular individual as both influencing and being influenced by context while somehow standing apart from that context. Meaning that purportedly resides solely within the individual often has been reified as if it is the whole of occupational experience. Yet if we are to understand occupation as an integral part of a dynamic whole that is life itself, the duality of person and context cannot stand and the elevation of personal meaning to be the core of occupational engagement must be questioned. In this paper we develop a theoretical critique of what we consider to be an overemphasis on the individual in occupational science. Moreover, we use empirical examples from our research that further call this emphasis to question. We then present a problematic: how can we conceptualize situated individuals, engaging in occupation, in a manner that allows for robust research and captures the complexity and holism of occupation? We use John Dewey's philosophy, and his conception of "situations" in particular, to begin working through the problematic. We focus on Dewey's view of situations as inherently relational in character to provide some suggestions about how occupation may be conceived as less individual, and therefore more social and cultural, in nature.