Epistemic Status
of Medical Knowledge

Sociology has a longstanding tradition of differentiation theory, as evident in the works of Durkheim, Weber, Parsons, and Luhmann. It appears that in a differentiated society with no apparent top, center, or common ground, translation, as suggested by Latour, emerges as a crucial competence.

It's astonishing how a doctor can discuss a patient's decision, such as whether or not to buy a car, in a way that transforms this decision into a medical one. Similarly, in his Encyclical "Laudato si", Pope Francis discusses politics and the environment in a manner that casts them as religious affairs.

Knowledge, in general, and medical knowledge, in particular, are not some sort of factum brutum 'out there'. Instead, they are constantly transformed and translated into different forms, targeting different audiences, and addressing different issues. I am especially interested in the role medical professions play in these translation practices. Despite the tendency of sociology to view professions as outdated concepts, the ability to translate and to act as a knowledge broker appears to be central to what professions fulfill in modern societies. Therefore, professions are possibly not on their way out, but are arguably more important than ever before.

Selected Talks/Publications

  • »Die Empirie der Palliativmedizin. Der Arzt als ›wilder Leser‹«. Vortrag im Rahmen des Nachwuchsworkshops der DGS-Sektion Professionssoziologie am 11.06.2021 (online)
  • together with Nassehi, A. / Saake, I. / Breitsameter, C. / Barth, N. / Berger, K. / Gigou, S. (2023): ”Do you really believe that there is something more?” – The offer of transcendental communication by Pastoral Care Workers in German Hospices and Palliative Care Units: A Qualitative Study. In: American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.
  • Gegenwart des Arztes am Sterbebett – die Empirie der Palliativmedizin, in: Form und Vergegenwärtigung, Wiesbaden: Springer VS, S. 141-190.

and Interfaces

Organizations are characterized not only by the division of labor but also by maintaining boundaries that define what does or does not belong to the organization. In my research on outpatient as well as inpatient care, I recurrently encountered professionals interacting with patients' family members and relatives, who are not members of the organization. When speaking with medical professionals, family members frequently appear as a source of support, yet often simultaneously as potential troublemakers who can severely disrupt the provision of care.

I was interested in finding an explanation for this constant issue, which often seems almost insoluble – and at times is, in fact, insoluble. Even though family members are not part of the organization, it appears that the organization expects the family to function in the same way as an organization. While families can also operate like organizations – for instance, the division of labor is not alien to most families – issues start to arise when they do not. Medical professionals then attempt to make the family work like an organization, a strategy which sometimes succeeds and sometimes fails. The aim of professional care is to bridge this gap between family and organization by making the organization more family-like (e.g., through 'flat' hierarchies, 'team spirit', and a common 'attitude') and the family more like an organization.

Selected Talks/Publications

  • Gegenwart der Familie – organisierte Regulation von Nähe und Distanz, in: Form und Vergegenwärtigung, Wiesbaden: Springer VS, S. 191-234.
  • Organisierte Gegenwarten – Kommunikation mit Familienangehörigen in der ambulanten Sterbebegleitung und Palliativversorgung, in: Schönefeld, D./Gahlen-Hoops, W. v. (Hrsg.): Soziale Ordnungen des Sterbens. Theorie, Methodik und Einblicke in die Vergänglichkeit, Bielefeld: transcript, S. 241-261.
  • together with Krauss, S. H. / Freytag, A. / Gebel, C. / Hach, M. / Jansky, M. / Meißner, W. / Wedding, U. / Schneider, W. (2022): Angehörige aus Sicht von Palliative Care Pflegefachkräften: Versorgungskulturen in der spezialisierten ambulanten Palliativversorgung. Pflege & Gesellschaft, 27(2), S. 119-132.

Death, Dying
and Society

In modern society, there are plenty of discourses around death and dying. I am particularly interested in the sociological discourse itself.

Even though sociologists have contemplated the problem of death and dying in modernity for quite some time (for example, Emile Durkheim with "Suicide"), a distinct sociological discourse did not emerge until the 1960s with the publications of Barney G. Glaser, Anselm L. Strauss, or David Sudnow. From then on, the sociological discourse seems to follow two typical patterns: it either argues from the position of a participant or from an observer's perspective.

The contemporary German discourse is dominated by a critique of palliative care through a Foucauldian lens, using concepts such as governmentality and biopolitics. This approach allows sociologists to depict palliative care in a somewhat distorted manner, viewing it as a neoliberal intervention in a late-capitalist society. Another segment of the German discourse portrays death and the practices surrounding it as a form of entertainment in a consumerist society. I aim to find a path that is neither one nor the other.

Selected Talks/Publications

  • Gegenwarten der Einschreibung – zur soziologischen Thematisierung der Organisation des Sterbens, in: Form und Vergegenwärtigung, Wiesbaden: Springer VS, S. 25-80.
  • Thanatosoziologie, in: Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie (KZfSS), 75, S. 385-389.
  • Die Palliativversorgung der Gesellschaft. Organisation des Sterbens zu Hause und funktionale Differenzierung, In: T. Benkel et al. (Hg.): Lebensende. Einblicke in die Gesellschaft, Schriftenreihe „Thanatologische Studien“, Baden-Baden: Nomos.
  • »Neo-modern constellations of dying – ›holistic‹ palliative care as organized polyphony«, Conference »The Circle of Life. Birth, dying and Liminality since the 19th century«, German Historical Institute Warsaw, 1./2. September 2022.