Othering and Being Othered in the Context of Health Care Services
Othering is a process that identifies those that are thought to be different from oneself or the mainstream, and it can reinforce and reproduce positions of domination and subordination. Although there are theoretical and conceptual treatments of othering in the literature, researchers lack sufficient examples of othering practices that influence the interactions between patients and health care providers. The purpose of this study was to explore the interactions between health care providers and South Asian immigrant women to describe othering practices and their effects. Ethnographic methods were used involving in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. The analysis entailed identifying uses of othering and exploring the dynamics through which this process took place. Women shared stories of how discriminatory treatment was experienced. The interviews with health care professionals provided examples of how views of South Asian women shaped the way health care services were provided. Three forms of othering were found in informants' descriptions of their problematic health care encounters: essentializing explanations, culturalist explanations, and racializing explanations. Women's stories illustrated ways of coping and managing othering experiences. The analysis also revealed how individual interactions are influenced by the social and institutional contexts that create conditions for othering practices. To foster safe and effective health care interactions, those in power must continue to unmask othering practices and transform health care environments to support truly equitable health care.