Visual and Narrative Texts of Chronic Illness: An exploration of the relationship between disease, the body, and the ontological assumptions inherent in medical treatment for hepatitis C
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis explores the argument that inherent in medical treatment interventions for chronic hepatitis C, there are certain implicit ontological assumptions about the relationship between the body, disease, and society. Focusing primarily on biomedical practices, it is argued that these assumptions might have a profound effect on the world-views of patients undergoing them. This in turn, might have far-reaching sociological implications. Using a methodology specifically developed for the purpose of explicating the ontological assumptions inherent in medical treatment, the visual and narrative texts produced by thirteen hepatitis C positive participants are examined. A deconstructive analytical approach is then applied to these texts as they relate to the treatment interventions pursued by participants. An exploration of the way participants engage with, negotiate, and/or resist the discourses and assumptions inherent in biomedicine, traditional Chinese medicine, and to some extent naturopathy, is conducted. Two broad ways in which the participants visualise the relationship between disease and their bodies, relating to treatment undertaken, are identified. The possible social implications of these are then suggested. The first, and predominant view, is aligned with biomedicine. The relationship between disease and the body is antagonistic in this view. It is suggested that this way of seeing might naturalise xenophobic attitudes and perpetuate social conflict. The marginal view is related to non-biomedical treatments for hepatitis C. The relationship in this case is the result of a negotiated accommodation with the disease. It is suggested that such a view might allow for non-resistant social tolerance of that which is perceived of as new and different. This qualitative study contributes to the body of knowledge in the field of the sociology of health and illness in two ways: Firstly, it proposes a methodology that may be taken up or adapted for future sociological research, and secondly, it suggests something of the social and political nature of treatment decisions made by people living with chronic hepatitis C.