Political discourse in the hospital heterotopia Academic Article uri icon


  • To what extent do we pay attention to the text and images that cover our hospital walls and do we offer any critique either as professionals or service users? In the past we might have expected to see functional or helpful instructions about where to go (or not to go) and in more well-endowed buildings, perhaps we would see some works of art, sculpture, stained glass even, with the intention to encourage, distract or even forewarn us. However, it is now common in UK hospitals, for wall space to be used as a  portal for a range of institutional political messages, that convey information about everything from its own values, behaviours to  advertisements for products and services to requirements for rule following. Michel Foucault's ideas about Heterotopic space can help us to see that hospitals tend to fall (awkwardly) between being a public and personal health care space, and this is a possible explanation for the confused material culture and messages that are shared there. This paper draws on ethnographic methods to reflect on personal experience in order to offer a critique of the contemporary political discourse which has become 'literally' written onto our hospital walls.

publication date

  • 2019