Bodelet Claire

PhD in Sociology


Dissertation defended on 13 October 2020: Artistic interventions in care contexts:  Are clowns witnesses or actors of the current transformations in care?

Under the supervision of Jean-Paul Gaudillière

Since their appearance in pediatric services about 20 years ago, clowns have managed to adapt to the care environment and to develop their artistic practice in interaction with this context and its characteristics. Their interventions have grown, and in many places they have become part and parcel of ward activities.

Despite the development of this practice, the social integration of clowns in hospitals has remained ambiguous. Clowns in hospitals are a form of entertainment, but what constitutes their primary definition, namely their regular presence in care wards, inevitably leads to changes, not only in their practice but also in the hospital. Care teams have thus had to invent new forms of collaboration with these artists in order to work together with patients.

My research will attempt to understand how this collaboration between care providers and clowns have developed into acts, as much in the delivery of therapeutic care by the care teams as in the care relationship. What kind of resource are clowns, ultimately, at the hospital? What kind of adjustments do they entail in the social world of the hospital? And conversely, what kind of evolutions does the medical institution entail in the work of actor-clowns?

At the same time that clowns in hospitals have become somewhat routine and even standard practice, the question of their status in the wards is still an open one: Are they marginal to care or fully a part of it? One of the goals of this work will be to analyze the processes through which this collaboration has been built and is still being built, and to show, via an ethnographic approach, how the space of this collaboration is negotiated day after day and what the stakes involved are.

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