Journal article Open Access

Is it Wise to Use “Culture” as Category in the Sector of Health-Care?

Schaffler, Yvonne

Health care workers often stress that migrants are a disturbing factor in clinical routine work. Due to their “cultural otherness” migrants are said to be in need of special   attention, their lack of language skills, in particular, is a source of problems. Scientists, NGO’s and the media have realized this and have thought about it. I do not intend to discuss the variety of concepts of culture as they are discussed in anthropology, cultural studies, philosophy, or sociology. I rather criticise the tendency in medicine to attribute “cultural problems” to foreign patients, who therefore require a certain “cultural competence” on behalf of the health care workers. My argument is that the use of “culture” as a category outside the humane discipline bears the risk of its reification. This is noticeable when people think of “culture” in relationship to national boundaries or religious membership. I thus want to encourage a more accurate communication, especially when we are directing our concern towards the public. My appeal applies in particular to the situation in Austria and Germany, where right wing politicians like Jörg Haider or Heinz Christian Strache and authors like Thilo Sarrazin have agitated the political situation to the general disadvantage of immigrants.

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