Listening-touch, Affect and the Crafting of Medical Bodies through Percussion

Anna Harris*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The growing abundance of medical technologies has led to laments over doctors' sensory de-skilling, technologies viewed as replacing diagnosis based on sensory acumen. The technique of percussion has become emblematic of the kinds of skills considered lost. While disappearing from wards, percussion is still taught in medical schools. By ethnographically following how percussion is taught to and learned by students, this article considers the kinds of bodies configured through this multisensory practice. I suggest that three kinds of bodies arise: skilled bodies; affected bodies; and resonating bodies. As these bodies are crafted, I argue that boundaries between bodies of novices and bodies they learn from blur. Attending to an overlooked dimension of bodily configurations in medicine, self-perception, I show that learning percussion functions not only to perpetuate diagnostic craft skills but also as a way of knowing of, and through, the resource always at hand; one's own living breathing body.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-61
Number of pages31
JournalBody & Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016


  • ethnography
  • materiality
  • medicine
  • senses
  • BODY


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