Embodied narratives of recovery : a phenomenology of cardiac rehabilitation
Adopting a phenomenologically inflected approach, which recognizes the role of the body in the constitution of experience, this thesis examines the experience of heart disease and the process of ‘narrativization’ of the illness experience. The body, as the locus of intentionality, is given in experience, yet at the same time it is constructed as an object of medicine. The body of experience, it is argued, exists in tension with the textual body of medical science. This thesis traces a brief history of the medicalisation of the body, from the anatomy theatres of early modern Europe, to the clinical encounter in its various forms; from the doctor-patient relationship to the nurse-patient interaction in the cardiac rehabilitation clinics of today. It is argued that ‘illness narratives’ represent more than a lay response to objectifying medical discourses and practices. Such narratives are in fact constitutive of experience and, as such, are exemplifying practices. It is also argued that the body is possessed of a memory and, to illustrate this further, I present research conducted among people who have experience of heart disease, surgery, and cardiac rehabilitation. This ‘memory of the body’ is that which, to some extent, is lost in the dehumanising spaces of medical science, but I assert that it is by way of the body’s remembered capacities that selfhood is re-established. An issue that drives this thesis is the question of whether remaking the body, during the difficult process of recovery and cardiac rehabilitation, entails a remaking of the self. Illness, as a medicalised phenomenon, disrupts the biographical trajectory of the sick person, severing affective ties to family, friends and community. It effectively dislocates the experience of the embodied person. This thesis is concerned principally with the means by which the person relocates himself or herself.