Accepted Paper:

Making Visible and Protecting Invisibility: "Functional" Constipation and the Politics of Writing up Narrative-Ethnography  


Megan Wainwright (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation discusses how the politics of writing-up were shaped not only by my obligations towards various stakeholders but also by contradictions inherent in combining narrative and ethnography. The use of NVIVO audio coding, instead of transcribed text-coding will be critically explored.

Paper long abstract:

This presentation discusses the politics of writing-up research done in one of the only two clinics in England specialised in "functional" Constipation. This process was shaped not only by my sense of accountability towards various stakeholders but also by contradictions inherent in combining narrative and ethnographic approaches. While combining narrative-interviews and ethnography is sound in theory, in the practice of knowledge "production", in this case producing a written piece of work, I was unable to satisfy either of the approach's norms for analysis and visual representation of knowledge. My failure to satisfy a narrative-analysis approach was also due to my exclusive use of audio-coding using NVIVO, thus renouncing the traditional use of written transcripts. In this study of patients' illness experiences and relationships with healthcare professionals, I describe how the final piece of written work was influenced by this new technology and represented conciliation between competing obligations. On the one hand was a commitment to doing justice to patients' participation by making visible their life-experiences (in part with the aim of advising the clinic on how to improve their service), on the other trying to maintain participants' invisibility/confidentiality in written work to be read by staff and patient-participants. Ethical issues such as these are particularly acute in medical anthropology wherein interviews or participant-observation with people living with disease will elicit stories that in certain settings (i.e. medical consultations) are treated as confidential, or, as was the case in this research, aren't shared with health professionals at all.

Panel P11
Current concerns in contemporary critical medical ethnography: resisting a structural anaemia in respect to a new politics of evidence