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Narratives and counter narratives of breast cancer - a performance

Date: 15 June 2010 Time: 6.00 pm

Venue: Bowland North SR 6

Prof Elaine Martin

Institute for Community Engagement,

Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia

I am an academic, now semi-retired, and for most of my academic life I have researched academic identity and understandings of academic work, particularly teaching and research

I am also a survivor of breast cancer and recently I have turned my reflective gaze onto the experience of living through, with and beyond breast cancer. I have done this within and through a small group of academic women similarly struggling with breast cancer. To begin with we were ten, now we are five. In this group our humanity, our biographies and our academic expertise have all been equally welcome.

Over the past two years we have developed a series of 'spoken performances' to explore aspects of our evolving experience and identity. Over time it has become clear that there exists a culturally acceptable 'storying' of breast cancer that does not fit our 'storying' - and we find ourselves at odds not just with the medical narratives of breast cancer, but also with the heavy traffic of those commonly shared through other support groups and national cancer organizations, as well as magazines and television. This culturally acceptable breast-cancer narrative is typically a testimony to survivorship, a progress narrative of self-realization and self actualization. It is written as almost a blessing in disguise, a test of one's makeup, a character makeover.

A major feature of our work has become the desire to re-construct this popular breast cancer story, or at least to construct a counter narrative. We want to unearth what is currently constrained, to normalize death and pain and anxiety and to expose the falsity of the necessarily happy ending. But overall, we aim to highlight issues and concerns and view-points that have waxed and waned in our group across the years - and to do this without censor.

Performances are usually around twenty minutes to half an hour in length and involve a speaking of a script developed through the women's own words and their subsequent comments on these words. Great effort is made to attend to the intonation and voicing and silences and pauses expressed at the time of speaking.

Following the performance there is discussion and questions.


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Associated staff: Bob Sapey

Organising departments and research centres: Applied Social Science, Cancer Experiences Collaborative CECo, Centre for Disability Research CeDR, End of Life Care

Keyword: Cancer


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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