Language and Identity

This theme within Medical Humanities Sheffield considers personal experiences of illness.

I am... identity image.

Identity. I am… Image by John Hain, 2015. Pixabay. License: Creative Commons CC0.

The aim is to explore, analyse and understand what it is to live with illness and receive treatment, drawing on work produced by and with patients, service users, and others, using contemporaneous and historical data.

First hand subjective accounts communicate personal truths and understandings of illness and care, the place of illness in an individual’s life, its impact on personal identity, and the extent to which medical and societal forces influence how an individual views themselves and how they are viewed by others.

Accounts of illness come in many forms, from highly personal narratives to large scale population surveys, focusing on current experiences or offering comparisons with historical perspectives. They can contribute meaningful knowledge to health professionals about living with illness, and be used to give insights to patients and decrease feelings of isolation.

Narratives of experience can provide opportunities to criticise, expose, petition, share, challenge and call for autonomy. Relating personal experience may also be cathartic for the teller, as a means to reflect, find meaning, preserve dignity, and communicate individuality.

The theme will explore the patient as an individual whose identity is meshed with medical constructs of the body. From an interdisciplinary stance we seek to represent differing mediums through which patient experience is expressed, including oral history, first person accounts in print and on the internet, web-based and social network material, narrative medicine, biography, fiction, poetry, performance and other artistic representations.