chapter  26
14 Pages

Rhetorical futures for the study of language and science

Theorizing interpublics in/for healthcare
WithJennifer A. Malkowski

Healthcare workers (HCW) who question, and sometimes reject, vaccination policy do not fit neatly into the oppositional framework commonly used to both describe public debate about the issue and theorize public participation. In this chapter I theorize their role as members of an ‘interpublic’, a group that regularly traverses private/public, lay/scientific divides. After reviewing publics theory to explain and propose my concept of interpublics, I then briefly review the mandatory influenza vaccinations for HCW controversy and the pushback it has generated. In doing so, I showcase characteristics of interpublic communication to consider healthcare workers’ roles as conduits between scientific and lay discourse and to illustrate the value and potential of interpublic contributions to health sciences and public deliberation more generally. Studying groups that challenge tenets of science from within science, offers one means to avoid interpreting disagreements as false dichotomies between science and its public or as the products of controversial, uninformed, or ‘fringe’ individuals.