Title

Connecting risk and occupation: Problematizing uses of risk in the study of occupation

Location

Charles Frost

Start Time

18-10-2014 1:10 PM

End Time

18-10-2014 1:40 PM

Session Type

Research Paper

Abstract

Background and Rationale: The idea that responsible choice of certain occupations, such as exercising, can reduce health risks has gained prominence around the world. Critical scholars (Dean, 1999, Rose, 1999), addressing risk as a particular ‘thinking style’ and powerful neoliberal rationality, relate the global prominence of risk to current social transformations in many countries that shift social responsibility onto individuals. As particular risk rationalities obscure structural inequalities in economic resources, safe and health-supporting environments, and an individual’s opportunities to choose and engage in occupation, it is vital for occupational scientists to explore the use of risk in the study of occupation.

Purpose: This study sought to identify the relationship between occupation and risk in the occupation-based literature, including the epistemological perspectives on risk informing this literature and their potential effects on the study of occupation.

Methods: Drawing on Arksey and O’Malley’s (2005) methodological framework, a scoping review was completed, comprehensively searching relevant literature published between 2007 and 2012 in 17 peer-reviewed occupational science and occupational therapy journals. The final sample resulted in 61 articles. Inclusion criteria required that articles referred to ‘risk’ (in title, abstract, or keyword) and clearly focused on occupation as defined in occupational science (‘the ordinary and familiar things that people do every day’). Subsequent content and thematic analysis explored how risk and occupation were conceptually related, as well as how risk was epistemologically positioned, using Lupton’s (1999) risk heuristic.

Findings: The relationship between risk and occupation was conceptualized in four major ways: ‘occupation as a risk’, ‘occupation to screen for risk’, ‘occupation to prevent risk’, and ‘occupation at risk’. Although various relationships between occupation and risk existed, this review found that a technico-scientific perspective on risk was dominant.

Conclusion/Contribution: These findings are of concern for the study of occupation for two reasons. First, the predominant technico-scientific perspective on risk places the focus on occupation as an individual concept, which limits the ability to advance the study of occupation as a socio-politically constructed phenomenon. Second, without critical reflection of the ways risk, occupation, and health are connected, the study of occupation might unintentionally contribute to reinforcing social, occupational and health injustices around the world, by locating risk in individuals rather than attending to its socio-political production.

Keywords: risk, epistemology, study of occupation

References

Arksey, H., & O'Malley, L. (2005). Scoping studies: Towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 8(1), 19-32.

Dean, M. (1999). Governmentality: Power and rule in modern society. Thousand Oaks,CA: Sage.

Lupton, D. (1999). Risk. London; New York: Routledge.

Rose, N. (1999). Powers of freedom: Reframing political thought. Cambridge, UK:Cambridge University Press.

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Oct 18th, 1:10 PM Oct 18th, 1:40 PM

Connecting risk and occupation: Problematizing uses of risk in the study of occupation

Charles Frost

Background and Rationale: The idea that responsible choice of certain occupations, such as exercising, can reduce health risks has gained prominence around the world. Critical scholars (Dean, 1999, Rose, 1999), addressing risk as a particular ‘thinking style’ and powerful neoliberal rationality, relate the global prominence of risk to current social transformations in many countries that shift social responsibility onto individuals. As particular risk rationalities obscure structural inequalities in economic resources, safe and health-supporting environments, and an individual’s opportunities to choose and engage in occupation, it is vital for occupational scientists to explore the use of risk in the study of occupation.

Purpose: This study sought to identify the relationship between occupation and risk in the occupation-based literature, including the epistemological perspectives on risk informing this literature and their potential effects on the study of occupation.

Methods: Drawing on Arksey and O’Malley’s (2005) methodological framework, a scoping review was completed, comprehensively searching relevant literature published between 2007 and 2012 in 17 peer-reviewed occupational science and occupational therapy journals. The final sample resulted in 61 articles. Inclusion criteria required that articles referred to ‘risk’ (in title, abstract, or keyword) and clearly focused on occupation as defined in occupational science (‘the ordinary and familiar things that people do every day’). Subsequent content and thematic analysis explored how risk and occupation were conceptually related, as well as how risk was epistemologically positioned, using Lupton’s (1999) risk heuristic.

Findings: The relationship between risk and occupation was conceptualized in four major ways: ‘occupation as a risk’, ‘occupation to screen for risk’, ‘occupation to prevent risk’, and ‘occupation at risk’. Although various relationships between occupation and risk existed, this review found that a technico-scientific perspective on risk was dominant.

Conclusion/Contribution: These findings are of concern for the study of occupation for two reasons. First, the predominant technico-scientific perspective on risk places the focus on occupation as an individual concept, which limits the ability to advance the study of occupation as a socio-politically constructed phenomenon. Second, without critical reflection of the ways risk, occupation, and health are connected, the study of occupation might unintentionally contribute to reinforcing social, occupational and health injustices around the world, by locating risk in individuals rather than attending to its socio-political production.

Keywords: risk, epistemology, study of occupation