Configurations of power relations in the Brazilian emergency care system: analyzing a context of visible practices

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In this paper, we make explicit the changing configurations of power relations that currently characterize the Brazilian Emergency Care System (SAMU) team in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The SAMU is a recent innovation in Brazilian healthcare service delivery. A qualitative case study methodology was used to explore SAMU’s current organizational arrangements, specifically the power relations that have developed and that demonstrate internal team struggles over space and defense of particular occupational interests. The argument advanced in this paper is that these professionals are developing their work in conditions of exposure, that is, they are always being observed by someone, and that such observational exposure provides the conditions whereby everyday emergency care practices are enacted such that practice is shaped by, as well as shapes, particular, yet recognizable power relationships. Data were collected through the observation of the SAMU’s work processes and through semi-structured interviews. Research materials were analyzed using discourse analysis. In the emergency care process of work, visibility is actually embedded in the disciplinary context and can thus be analyzed as a technique applied to produce disciplined individuals through the simple mechanisms elaborated by Foucault such as hierarchical surveillance, normalizing judgment, and the examination.

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