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The Place of Nonsanctioned Occupations in Occupational Therapy

Call for Papers

Occupational therapy scholarship aims to generate knowledge about the ways by which occupations support and enhance health and well-being. Over the past few decades, tremendous strides have been made in establishing a theoretical and empirical knowledge base grounded in the study of occupation. Yet a sustained focus on the health-enhancing qualities of occupation has effectively silenced discussion of a significant realm of human experience: occupations that are typically considered unhealthy, illegal, undesirable, “bad,” or “wrong.”

This special issue invites exploration of such “nonsanctioned” occupations, those that (within specific contexts, in dominant worldviews) tend to be viewed as unhealthy, illegal, immoral, unacceptable, and/or inappropriate. Inevitably, such exploration may also question the power dynamics and social relations involved in categorizing some occupations—and not others—as healthful and acceptable, perpetuating the privileging and marginalization of particular ways of doing and particular social groups.

When nonsanctioned occupations are taken up in the literature, they are almost always positioned as in need of remediation. We invite empirical, conceptual, and theoretical reflections that avoid this “corrective” tendency, rather attending to nonsanctioned occupations as part of human engagement in everyday life, involving meaning, skills, capacities, competence, habits, routines, and identities. We encourage exploration of the role of occupational therapy in the social processes of categorizing occupations as sanctioned or nonsanctioned and encouraging conformity with dominant social conventions, as well as exploration of how occupational therapists engage in enablement of nonsanctioned occupations. Nonsanctioned occupations have mostly been studied in socially marginalized populations (youth, people living with mental illness and/or poverty, and homeless people). We especially welcome exploration of nonsanctioned occupations in dominant or nonmarginalized social groups.

Potential topics include but are not limited to the following:

  • Engagement in specific occupations, nonsanctioned in particular times, places, and/or groups (e.g., substance use, gambling, sex work, masturbation, S&M sex, panhandling, graffiti, busking, veiling, nudity, feeding practices, driving, sports, violence, religious practices, rituals, gang activity, civil disobedience, theft, tax fraud, parenting practices, music-making, body-building, gender transition, etc.)
  • Nonsanctioned occupations in dominant social groups
  • Meaning and identity in nonsanctioned occupations
  • Occupational therapy involvement in privileging or marginalizing occupations
  • Occupational therapy enablement of nonsanctioned occupations

Authors can submit their manuscripts through the Manuscript Tracking System at

Submission DeadlineFriday, 18 January 2019
Publication DateJune 2019

Papers are published upon acceptance, regardless of the Special Issue publication date.

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