Eeva Sointu
Research Fellow



I am a Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology at York.  Before moving to York, I was an Associate Professor of Sociology at Smith College, USA. I completed a B.A. in religious studies, an M.A. in religion, culture and society, and a Ph.D. in sociology at Lancaster University. 



I am currently conducting research into medical student experiences of clinical training. This research aspires to instil an affective dimension to understanding medicine and medical education. My project starts from a paradox: while modern biomedicine tends to be conceptualised as an objective science, it deals with matters of momentous emotional import. Immense emotional weight attaches to morbidity and mortality, and to medicine as a science charged with producing health, and managing illness and dying. Even though doctors inhabit the emotion-laden halls of medicine, the emotions of physicians have received scant sociological attention. I focus specifically on clinical rotations because they play a vital role in the passing down and cementing of not only medical knowledge but also of a multitude of values and feelings about medicine and medical work, and about the character, worth and validity of patients and patient claims.

Locating health behaviour and health practices in the broader social, cultural, institutional and historical contexts and in relation to the identities of the people involved is central to my work. My earlier research focused on the use and practice of complementary and alternative medicines. In this work I argue that the alternative health arena is rising in importance because the key values captured in alternative and complementary medicines – values embodied in what can be called the discourse of wellbeing – make sense in relation to how many people understand their selves and bodies. The discourse of wellbeing reproduces important ideals around normal and desirable selfhood: individual uniqueness, agency, self-responsibility, reflexivity, and self-fulfilment. At the same time, however, the discourse of wellbeing also embodies class-based privilege. Values reproduced in the discourse of wellbeing resonate in significant ways also with traditional ideas of gender. The rise and appeal of alternative and complementary health practices is thus intimately entwined with dominant conceptualisations of selfhood and with the classed and gendered identities of the people involved.



Selected publications

Sointu, E. (2017)                                             ‘Good’ patient / ‘bad’ patient: clinical learning and the entrenching of inequality, in Sociology of Health and Illness, 39 (1): 63-77.

Sointu, E. (2016)                                             Discourse, affect and affliction, in The Sociological Review, 64: 312–328.

Sointu, E. (2014)                                             Complementary and Alternative Medicines, Encyclopedia of Health, Illness, Behavior, and Society, Robert Dingwall and Stella R. Quah (eds.), John Wiley and Sons.

Sointu, E. (2013)                                             Complementary and alternative medicines, embodied subjectivity and experiences of healing, in Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine, 17 (5), pp. 439-454.

Sointu, E. (2012)                                             Theorizing Complementary and Alternative Medicines: Wellbeing, Self, Class, Gender, Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke, UK, New York, USA

Sointu, E. (2011)                                             Detraditionalization, Gender, and Alternative and Complementary Medicines, in Sociology of Health and Illness,33 (3), pp. 356-371

Sointu, E. and Woodhead, L. (2008)              Spirituality, Gender, and Expressive Selfhood, in Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 47 (2), pp. 259-276; contributed 50% to the article.

Sointu, E. (2006)                                             Healing bodies, feeling bodies: embodiment and alternative and complementary health practices, in Social Theory and Health 4 (3), pp. 203-220.

Sointu, E. (2006)                                             Recognition and the creation of wellbeing, in Sociology 40 (3), pp. 493-510.

Sointu, E. (2006)                                             The search for wellbeing in alternative and complementary health practices, in Sociology of Health and Illness 28 (3), pp. 330-349.

Sointu, E. (2005)                                             The rise of an ideal: tracing changing discourses of wellbeing, in The Sociological Review 53 (2), pp. 255-274.

Contact details

Dr Eeva Sointu
Research Fellow
Department of Sociology
University of York
Wentworth College
YO10 5DD