Increasingly, people employ the term ‘allergy’ to define various pathological conditions, although the biomedical community lacks a consensus on a definition of the term. It has become a widespread and convenient label for diverse conditions, often going beyond biomedical diagnosis. The aim of this paper is to explore how allergic people narrate their illness experiences, focusing specifically on the relationship between words, senses and bodies. This paper is based on an ethnographic study in a medium size north Italian city conducted from 2004 to 2008, starting in a public hospital Allergy Unit, and then developing through snowball recruitment and referral methods. Interviews were conducted with 37 allergic people, four allergologists and four nurses. Allergic people’s narratives constantly drew upon two main concepts: weakness and pollution. These are interpreted as sensorial dimensions expressing a conflicting relationship with the outside environment. It is argued that in times of marked individualism and social transformations, bodily states are of fundamental importance and the mobilization of sensory concepts is an attempt to give order and meaning to a world which is perceived as constituted by threatening aspects, polluted and out of order.

Conflicting sensory relationships. Encounters with allergic people

Raffaetà R
2012-01-01

Abstract

Increasingly, people employ the term ‘allergy’ to define various pathological conditions, although the biomedical community lacks a consensus on a definition of the term. It has become a widespread and convenient label for diverse conditions, often going beyond biomedical diagnosis. The aim of this paper is to explore how allergic people narrate their illness experiences, focusing specifically on the relationship between words, senses and bodies. This paper is based on an ethnographic study in a medium size north Italian city conducted from 2004 to 2008, starting in a public hospital Allergy Unit, and then developing through snowball recruitment and referral methods. Interviews were conducted with 37 allergic people, four allergologists and four nurses. Allergic people’s narratives constantly drew upon two main concepts: weakness and pollution. These are interpreted as sensorial dimensions expressing a conflicting relationship with the outside environment. It is argued that in times of marked individualism and social transformations, bodily states are of fundamental importance and the mobilization of sensory concepts is an attempt to give order and meaning to a world which is perceived as constituted by threatening aspects, polluted and out of order.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10278/3740959
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