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Healing ourselves: ethical subjectivity in the stories of complementary self-help users with cancer

MacArtney, John I. (2011) Healing ourselves: ethical subjectivity in the stories of complementary self-help users with cancer. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis explores conceptualisations of ethical subjectivity in the stories of people who have, or have had, cancer and who use complementary therapies and self-help (complementary self-health). In England the increasing emphasis on individual responsibility and choice in healthcare means that those with cancer are now in the position where they have to make many of their own decisions about their treatment. For the people with cancer in this research this included choosing complementary self-health. The thesis explores the stories and experiences of people with cancer who used complementary self-health. The aim of the thesis is to document and make visible the many original ways people come to understand themselves as able to ‘heal’ their health, self and life. The thesis also reflects on the highly unusual position of the author, who was himself diagnosed with cancer mid-way through his fieldwork. The problems and challenges to the research are explored in the thesis, which became a story in itself. The thesis finds the ‘price that is paid’ for the way that the interviewees came to think of their selves in their subjectivity. The interviewees told open and ongoing stories of ‘balanced living’ and how they found ways to listen to their ‘embodied guides’. They also described how understanding ‘cancer as an opportunity for change’ helped to transform and transcend their previous ways of living. In doing so they provided themselves with new narratives of the past and future, which were situated by ‘living in the now’. The thesis explores the ethico-political repercussions of these new formations of subjectivity. In doing so it argues that the ‘spiritual’ component of the stories remains unaccounted for and under conceptualised in contemporary sociological theory of health. It concludes with suggestions of how to move contemporary analysis beyond its present ethical concerns with the subject.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 John I. MacArtney
Library of Congress subject classification: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Rose, Nikolas

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