“Telling Masculine Tales”: Tracing My Embodied Experience as a Psychiatric Ward Security Guard through Ethnographic Narrative Writing


This article unfolds the culture of hyper-masculinity I witnessed and ultimately rejected during my sixteen-month career working as a private security officer in an Ottawa hospital. I draw on two ethnographic narratives to “distribute”, in Rancièrian terms, the embodied and emotional experiences that accompanied my struggles to achieve hegemonic masculine status, and resist military-like hierarchies inside an institutional setting. Such a creative methodological exercise allows researchers to freely explore their delicate, complex and messy feelings that may otherwise be ethically suppressed or co-opted through less corporeal representations of academic writing. Moreover, by revealing the sensitive and coercive interactions that steered my gendered relationships with psychiatric patients, ward nurses and other security agents, I demonstrate how embodied research can transform our uncritical heteronormative positions on masculinity and violence, as well as contest the unequal, gendered and medicalized judgments that are imposed on incarcerated mental health patients.

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Johnston, M. (2014) “Telling Masculine Tales”: Tracing My Embodied Experience as a Psychiatric Ward Security Guard through Ethnographic Narrative Writing. Sociology Mind, 4, 161-173. doi: 10.4236/sm.2014.42016.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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