Image, measure, figure: a critical discourse analysis of nursing practices that develop children
Einboden, R and Rudge, T and Varcoe, C, Image, measure, figure: a critical discourse analysis of nursing practices that develop children, Nursing Philosophy, 14 pp. 212-222. ISSN 1466-7681 (2013) [Refereed Article]
Motivated by discourses that link early child development and health, nurses engage in seemingly benign surveillance of children. These practices are based on knowledge claims and technologies of developmental science, which remain anchored in assumptions of the child body as an incomplete form with a universal developmental trajectory and inherent potentiality. This paper engages in a critical discursive analysis, drawing on Donna Haraway's conceptualizations of technoscience and figuration. Using a contemporary developmental screening tool from nursing practice, this analysis traces the effects of this tool through production, transformation, distribution, and consumption. It reveals how the techniques of imaging, abstraction, and measurement collide to fix the open, transformative child body in a figuration of the developing child. This analysis also demonstrates how technobiopower infuses nurses' understandings of children and structures developmentally appropriate expectations for children, parents, and nurses. Furthermore, it describes how practices that claim to facilitate healthy child development may inversely deprive children of agency and foster the production of normal or ideal children. An alternative ontological perspective is offered as a challenge to the individualism of developmental models and other dominant ideologies of development, as well as practices associated with these ideologies. In summary, this analysis argues that nurses must pay closer attention to how technobiopower infuses practices that monitor and promote child development. Fostering a critical understanding of the harmful implications of these practices is warranted and offers the space to conceive of human development in alternate and exciting ways.