Investigating Health Related Identity Transformations



An oft visited topic in health research is the problematic nature of being ill; this core patient experience evades easy articulation, description or representation. Experiencing illness is truly embodied, encompassing emotions ranging from terror to bafflement and rage. Integrating patients’ voice into health research is important, though this goal presumes patients are able and willing to articulate or represent their experience in meaningful ways. As an experienced ethnographic researcher, I used reflexive introspection to gain an emic perspective on my own experience with cancer. Tasking myself to pay careful attention to affective elements, I used a hermeneutic structure to regularly review, reimagine and re-presence this transformational health experience. I retain sense-making categories of ill health such as the ‘body’ and notions of ‘identity’ but extend these beyond initial conceptions of ‘the human’ to develop a broader, more than human, assemblage. Using myself as patient, I propose a two part identity negotiation process during a transformative illness such as cancer(Normalisation and Patient led), and offer practical recommendations to assist health professionals support and empower patients to exercise agency when crafting new identities. Key Words: Research Methods and Methodologies Key Messages 1. This method investigate the affective experience of being ill. 2. Transformative illness can have a two stage identity transition 3. Health professionals can play a role is empowering patients in their transition between identities.


Shelagh Ferguson

Department of Marketing, University of Otago

As a Consumer Culture Theory researcher I seek to produce research that brings the everyday fabric of our lives into sharp perspective to challenge and critically review our collective and individual marketplace practices because the marketplace is everywhere. If we can see clearly how and why we act as we do in the marketplace then we collectively and individually can make informed decisions regarding our agency. The main themes in my research relate to interpretive knowledge - how we, as consumers, understand ourselves in relation to our cultural environment and how we, as researchers, seek to disseminate that knowledge; methodologies that capture the rich and non representational insights such as videography; methodologies that unpack myriad and interweaving layers of cultural meaning to interpret ambiguous and even derogated practices such as tobacco smoking; and gendered consumption, how we shape and are shaped by cultural constructions of how to be masculine and feminine within contemporary society.