Author:Susanna Trnka (University of Auckland)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines how asthma is defined across multiple temporalities – pharmaceutical, biomedical, and phenomenological. I argue that different understandings and experiences of how asthma symptoms are located in time lead to alternative curative measures.
Paper long abstract:
This paper examines how asthma is defined across multiple temporalities - pharmaceutical, biomedical, and phenomenological. I argue that different understandings and experiences of how symptoms of respiratory distress are located in time lead to alternative framings of both the illness in question and appropriate curative measures. Asthma has been progressively reconceptualised within biomedicine as a chronic illness that, according to international guidelines, usually requires the daily ingestion of pharmaceutical remedies in order to be held in check. Biomedical delineations of chronicity, moreover, coincide with (but are not the same as) the market-driven logics of pharmaceutical companies who similarly promote understandings of asthma as a long-term, potentially debilitative illness that, in most cases, requires daily management through medication. For a significant proportion of asthma sufferers, however, asthma is not experienced as a chronic condition but as a series of temporary, often powerful and potentially life-threatening, but nonetheless sporadic "interruptions" of everyday life. This paper examines how the disjuncture between phenomenological accounts of asthma and bio-medical and pharmaceutical framings lead some sufferers to question the reasoning and motivations behind diagnoses that highlight chronicity. As a result, some sufferers, moreover, turn away from biomedical solutions, searching out alternative therapies, such as breathing retraining programs (for example, Buteyko) that engage in yet another mode of temporalizing illness, healing, and breath.
Managing medical uncertainty