In this project we explore the intersections of women's agency and discourses of health and disease. The project developed out of a written 'conversation' between us, scribbled on Heather's notebook during Emily Martin's lecture one evening. It was prompted by a previous lecture, and an exchange in that day's tutorial. In this written dialogue, we questioned the 'healthy-sick' dichotomy. A few days later, we decided to find out what other women felt about this, and set about to use this as the basis for our final if project to which we would bring together the perspectives of our two disciplines - anthropology and literary criticism. We were interested in what terminology women used to describe their health / disease and how the terms available to them actually inscribe their bodies, i.e. how does this inscription affect their lived-experience?
Further, we questioned whether there would be discourses which women use to empower themselves with respect to their health / disease and / or whether they feel objectified by a vocabulary of illness. We used a survey containing a series of open ended questions. We hoped that each respondent would generate her own vocabulary regarding health and disease. However, because we wanted a short survey that would encourage a high return rate (shame about the low return rate, see below), the questions were posed in a dichotomous format (asking for definitions of sick and healthy), with space available for expansion of personal thoughts and ideas. Each survey was then reviewed by both of us for an analysis of the content.
The surveys were distributed to the participants of the 2000 International Women's University (if). Fifty surveys were distributed to women in the Body and Migration project areas. Twelve surveys were returned and form the basis of the written analysis. This project is an attempt to reconcile the approaches of our two disciplines - is one of if's aims - so you will find here aspects of an anthropological approach (although Heather has tried to purge Diana's writing of what she sees as a somewhat 'impersonal' quality, such as the use of the third person, and any form of structure which seems too 'scientific'), and some more 'literary' aspects (such as Heather's references to the 'bourgeois' body, which Diana still finds exasperating and not particularly enlightening or useful! ). What's more, we have chosen to present the project in a way which is new for both of us, rather than hand in a traditional 'essay'.
There is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to read this project - the internet is a format which allows you to explore our research in whatever way you like according to your interests; you can read all of it or only some of it - you just click on the links which most interest you. In this way, our findings (some parts of which were written together, some separately) are not prioritized or manipulated to support a particular argument or 'conclusion'; rather, they stand alone as pieces of analysis to be considered by the reader. You can draw your own conclusions... or not!