Performing illness and health: the humanistic value of cancer narratives.
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Cancer is a potent example of a disease that grips and plays out on the body in ways that are both visceral and visual. This paper explores issues of disease and disorder, functioning and malfunctioning in bodies marked by cancer and a sense of non-belonging. By working through the heuristic device of ‘narrative’, the paper argues for the humanistic value and currency of the personal (subjective) illness narrative in social science scholarship in being able to convey to audiences the emotional and existential complexities of cancer, beyond the merely medical. The paper, by drawing on ethnographic narratives of a small group of women with cancer and their inscriptive treatment practices, probes the shifting and constructed concepts of a so-called ‘healthy’ body and ‘ill’ body as experienced by the women, and attempts to show that a recognition of these experiences of the physical body is potentially able to contribute to shaping more compassionate, person-centred health care models of illness and healing.
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