Aiming for the ordinary: Exploring everyday life experiences og bodily sensations and symptoms in the Danish middle class

Research output: Book/anthology/dissertation/reportPh.D. thesis

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Increasing focus on the importance of early diagnosis of cancer for improving individual cancer prognoses and national cancer survival has in Denmark led to a shift in cancer disease control efforts towards a heightened emphasis on symptom-oriented management of potential cancer. This means that the Danes are encouraged to be alert to still earlier and vaguer bodily signs of potential cancer and seek care ‘in time’. With biomedical constructions such as ‘cancer awareness’ and ‘alarm symptoms of cancer’ and the retrospectively oriented definition of life before symptoms-based healthcare seeking as the ‘patient interval’, cancer disease control has firmly entered the domains of everyday life, continuously expanding its presence and likely affects what counts as ordinary and extraordinary bodily experience.
However, most studies of symptom experience and healthcare seeking in this field have been conducted retrospectively among already diagnosed patients. Hence, we do not know much about neither how these processes and changing approaches play out in everyday life among non-cancer-afflicted people, nor about how symptoms in the first place arise out of culturally contingent experience, organization and articulation of bodily sensations, and how decisions about healthcare seeking are established in this context.
This dissertation aims to explore these matters from the perspective of the Danish middle class, mainly focusing on how sensations are ascribed meaning as symptoms and how they are evoked on a continuum between what is locally considered ordinary and extraordinary. Overall, the dissertation argues that inquiries into morality and potentiality provide valuable insights into healthcare seeking practices and the making and management of symptoms in everyday life.
The dissertation is based on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in a Danish middle class suburban neighbourhood, using participant observation, semi-structured interviews and health diaries. 18 key informants were followed with regular field visits, interviews and participation in everyday life activities as well as health-related activities.
The findings are analysed in three papers, forming the main analytical arguments of the dissertation.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherFaculty of Health, Aarhus University
Number of pages190
ISBN (Print)978-87-90004-49-1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sep 2016

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