Bodies Ageing with and without Parkinson's Disease

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 42 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Johanne BRADY, University of Sydney, Australia
An Australian study has examined how in later life men and women, as either the person diagnosed or partner-carer, constructed experiential meaning from living with a Parkinsonian body. This empirical study has collected illness narratives from nine people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and their partner-carers. A thematic analysis describes participants’ objectification of a medicalized body in the socio-historic context of their lives and particularly their marital relationships.  

People diagnosed described why they became increasingly focused on controlling a symptomatic body as they lived through the effect of disintegrating and reintegrating the Self: Varied and spontaneous bodily symptoms were sensed and felt, and intensified and faded within multiple medication cycles each day. Contrastingly partner-carer narratives described their lived experiences of social interaction with the person who performed an embodied illness. Each couple had constructed their experiential knowledge of Parkinson’s disease from different perspectives towards the symptomatic body: The person diagnosed objectified the Self in disease-body-symptoms whereas the partner-carer had objectified the Other in disease-body-behaviour.

The illness narratives in this study provide evidence of how intertextual and intersubjective meanings of Parkinson’s disease were constructed between the person diagnosed and partner-carer; they each interpreted the biographical disruption in their everyday life, which through time had intensified and could be interpreted as having greater significance in being an ontological disruption for the body. This study will present the nuanced differences between participants’ interpretations of biological bodies that are ageing with or without being medically diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and will argue why it is important to recognize they are also social bodies that encase identities, perform socially, and inscribe an individual life history.