‘Quackery’ in the Academy? Professional Knowledge, Autonomy and the Debate over Complementary Medicine Degrees

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Journal Article
Sociology, 2015, 49 (6), pp. 1047 - 1064
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© 2015, © The Author(s) 2015. In 2012, the group ‘Friends of Science in Medicine’, mostly comprising academic doctors and scientists, lobbied to remove teaching in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) from Australian universities. Seemingly inspired by an earlier UK-based campaign, the group approached vice-chancellors and the media, arguing that CAM degrees promoted ‘pseudo-science’ and ‘quackery’. Although epistemological disputes between biomedicine and CAM are well documented, their emergence in a higher education context is less familiar. This article explores the position-taking of those on each side of the debate, via a thematic analysis of stakeholders’ views as reported in news articles and other outlets. Bourdieu’s concepts of capital and autonomy are used to sketch out the stakes of the struggle. It is argued that the debate is significant not only for what it reveals about the current status of CAM professions in Australia, but for what it suggests more broadly about legitimate knowledge in the university.
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