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Who speaks for whom? Health humanities and the ethics of representation
  1. Rebecca Garden
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rebecca Garden, Bioethics and Humanities, Upstate Medical University, 618 Irving Ave., Syracuse, NY 13224, USA; gardenr{at}upstate.edu

Abstract

The medical or health humanities are in essence a form of advocacy, a means of addressing a problem of underrepresentation. They focus on suffering, rather than pathology, and on sociocultural understandings of illness and disability, rather than a narrow biomedical perspective. The health humanities thus analyse and attempt to recalibrate the power imbalance in healthcare. This article reviews health humanities scholarship that addresses underrepresentation through the analysis of illness and disability narratives. It examines the ethics of representation by exploring how literary representation functions, its aesthetic as well as political dimensions, and how it operates as a relay mechanism for power. The mechanism of representation is further explored through a reading of Eli Clare's narrative Exile and Pride. Donna Haraway's notion of articulations is proposed as a tool for a more ethical approach to representation. The article suggests that transparency about the power health humanities scholars stand to gain through representation may contribute to a more ethical health humanities practice.

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