Becoming anonymous: how strict COVID-19 isolation protocols impacted ICU patients

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 22 (5):1031-1051 (2023)
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In this article, I provide phenomenological reflections on patients’ experiences of undergoing extreme isolation protocols while admitted to Intensive Care Units [ICU] during the first wave of COVID-19. Based on observation studies from within the patient isolation rooms and retrospective, in-depth phenomenological interviews with patients, I characterize this exceptional experience as one of becoming anonymous. To illustrate this, I start by establishing a perspective on embodied existence as constituted on a scale between anonymous embodiment and being enrooted into a personal niche. Against the backdrop of this framework, I illustrate how being admitted to the ICU under strict isolation protocols produced extraordinary experiences of becoming anonymous. Sources of the anonymization were: (1) Mechanical expropriation, pacification and disownership of the visceral-kinaesthetic body; (2) Objectification; (3) Spatial and intercorporeal anonymity (4) Surrealism: the intermingling of objective impressions and dream-like interpretations. Finally, I illustrate how anonymization induced an experience of embodiment as raw materiality, confronting the patient with what Martin Heidegger called the facticity of naked existence. This experience is discussed against Levinas’ critique of Heidegger, while I propose that insights from this exceptional case may substantiate Heidegger’s account.



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Cognitive Phenomenology.Tim Bayne & Michelle Montague (eds.) - 2011 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.


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Allan Køster
Aalborg University

References found in this work

Scaffoldings of the affective mind.Giovanna Colombetti & Joel Krueger - 2015 - Philosophical Psychology 28 (8):1157-1176.
Phenomenology of Perception.Aron Gurwitsch, M. Merleau-Ponty & Colin Smith - 1964 - Philosophical Review 73 (3):417.
Minds: extended or scaffolded?Kim Sterelny - 2010 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 9 (4):465-481.

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