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October 2021

Stories of illness and trauma survival: liberation or repression?

Journal/Book: Soc Sci Med. 1999; 48: the Boulevard Langford Lane, Kidlington, Oxford Ox5 1GB, England. Pergamon-Elsevier Science Ltd. 1685-1695.

Abstract: This paper aims to expand upon recent research addressing the relationship between power and cultural stories of illness. It does this by exploring the stories of 'healing' and 'survival' produced by people who have undergone traumatic experiences such as childhood sexual abuse and a HIV positive diagnosis. The liberating and/or repressive potential of cultural stories of illness are defined in accordance with their capacity to produce 'minimal' or more 'reflective' selves, as characterised by Lasch [Lasch, C., 1985. The Minimal Self. Picador, London.] and Giddens [Giddens. A., 1991. Modernity and Self-identity: Self and Society in the Later Modern Age. Polity Press, Cambridge.], respectively. Two predominant stories of survival are identified in this paper: the 'healing' story and the 'normalising' story. Each of these are explored in an attempt to address the question: How do we distinguish between 'liberating' and 'repressing' technologies of the self with regard to the telling of illness stories? [Frank, A., 1998. Stories of illness as care of the self: a Foucauldian dialogue. Health 2(3), 329-348, forthcoming.]. Through an examination of survivors' attempts to overcome their traumatic experiences via the appropriation of various illness stories, it is concluded that this question can only be answered in the practical and social context of each individual's life.

Note: Article Crossley ML, Edge Hill Univ Coll, Ctr Studies Social Sci, St Helens Rd, Ormskirk L39 4QP, Lancs, ENGLAND

Keyword(s): narrative; childhood sexual abuse; HIV AIDS; survival; HIV-POSITIVE DIAGNOSIS; EMPOWERMENT; SELF

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