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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Illuminating discourse through lived experience with rheumatoid arthritis Friesen, Heather


Ruth was the diarist of a Medical Log, the main research archive, which documented 40 years of lived experience with rheumatoid arthritis. While informants described Ruth‘s coping as exemplary, the latter months of her life were marked by progressive, severe and unremitting pain. At the age of 73, Ruth committed suicide, an act that was generally viewed as rational by informants. Using a critical discourse analytic approach, informed by Parker (1992) and Willig (2001), the present research investigated the cultural discourses (i.e., biomedical, psychological and socio-cultural) that constituted Ruth‘s identity, subjectivity and agency over time. In turn, Ruth‘s embodied experience was used to illuminate the constituting discourses as to the explicit and implicit gaps, ambiguities and contradictions contained within. Hopelessness, at the end of Ruth‘s life, was explored as a dialogically co-constructed reality, deeply embedded within constitutive discourses, rather that simply reflecting a maladaptive cognitive state. The research substantiation of Ruth‘s embodied experience as a public archive was viewed as a moral response to suffering, an invitation for empathetic engagement and understanding as well as an endorsement of Ruth‘s experience as having truly mattered.

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