Writing the Othered Self: Autoethnography and the Problem of Objectification in Writing About Illness and Disability

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Abstract

The individual's experience of kidney failure, transplantation, and recovery is not as well documented as might be expected. Often it is written about by outsiders (medical practitioners, care providers, academics), whereas the insider's (patient's) expertise is occluded. This conforms to the experience of many people living with illness and disability. The rendering of people as other (not like the norm) comes at a cost to their humanity. People who are ill or disabled can themselves succumb to a way of writing that simplifies their experience and objectifies themselves. I consider what it means to tell the story of oneself against a background of illness autoethnography, my own story of growing up medicalized and living with end-stage renal disease. I identify three types of illness autoethnography, one of which creates a tension between researcher as agent and researcher as object of research, and compels the reader to constantly realign himself or herself.

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