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Journal article review: Rethinking occupational categories and theories of occupation

Dr Katrina BanniganWhalley Hammell K (2009) Self-care, productivity, and leisure, or dimensions of occupational experience? Rethinking occupational “categories” Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy and Whalley Hammell K (2009) Sacred texts: A sceptical exploration of the assumptions underpinnings theories of occupation Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy  - reviewed by Dr Katrina Bannigan, Director of RCOMH

Theory and research are closely aligned because they are interlinked activities. Research is used in different ways to test or generate theory and theory shapes research. Theory is important because it helps us to understand what is going on. However if our theory is flawed our research will be flawed. Two articles by Karen Whalley Hammell have been published in the Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy this year that challenges some of the theory generated by occupational therapists about occupation. In the first paper Whalley Hammell questions occupational therapists core beliefs and assumptions, namely that occupations can be categorised as self-care, productivity (work) or leisure (play), and suggests the theory about occupation that has been developed to date is culturally specific, contestable and lacking in supportive evidence. In the second paper she unpacks further her argument that the categories of self-care, productivity (work) or leisure (play) are too simplistic; reflecting a culturally specific, class-bound, and ableist perspective, and explores a possible direction for future research. If she is right, and it is up to you to read her work and to decide for yourself if she is, these ideas will have profound implications not only for practice but for the way research about occupation is conducted. I urge you to have some fun and read these two extremely intellectually stimulating papers. Please feel free to send any reflections on them that are relevant to the work of RCOMH to RCOMH@yorksj.ac.uk.

If you would like to read these papers the full references are:

Whalley Hammell K (2009) Sacred texts: A sceptical exploration of the assumptions underpinnings theories of occupation Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy 76 (1) 6-13

Whalley Hammell K (2009) Self-care, productivity, and leisure, or dimensions of occupational experience? Rethinking occupational “categories” Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy 76 (2) 107-114