Legitimating complementary therapies in the NHS: campaigning, care and epistemic labour

Kathy Dodworth, Ellen Stewart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Questions of legitimacy loom large in debates about the funding and regulation of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in contemporary health systems. CAM’s growth in popularity is often portrayed as a potential clash between clinical, state and scientific legitimacies and legitimacy derived from the broader public. CAM’s ‘publics’, however, are often backgrounded in studies of the legitimacy of CAM and present only as a barometer of the legitimating efforts of others. This article foregrounds the epistemic work of one public’s effort to legitimate CAM within the UK’s National Health Service: the campaign to ‘save’ Glasgow’s Centre for Integrative Care (CIC). Campaigners skilfully intertwined ‘experiential’ knowledge of the value of CIC care with ‘credentialed’ knowledge (Rabeharisoa et al., 2014) regarding best clinical and managerial practice. They did so in ways that were pragmatic as well as purist, reformist as well as oppositional. We argue for legitimation as negotiated practice over legitimacy as a stable state, and as labour borne by various publics as they insert themselves into matrices of knowledge production and decision-making within wider health care governance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine
Early online date7 Jun 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Jun 2020


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