The agentic Self and uncontrollable body: young people’s management of chronic illness at university

Spencer, Grace and Lewis, Sophie and Reid, Megan (2019) The agentic Self and uncontrollable body: young people’s management of chronic illness at university. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine. ISSN 1461-7196

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Young people’s experiences of living with a long-term health condition have been largely investigated from the perspective of developing autonomy and optimal self-management of treatment regimens. Little existing research explores how young people adjust to the experience of chronic illness within everyday social contexts. Drawing on socio-cultural theories of healthism, in this paper we examine the everyday strategies students employed to manage their health condition at university. Data were drawn from a qualitative study with 16 undergraduate students in Australia. Findings from interviews highlight how participants took up discourses of the (hard-working, diligent) Self to discursively position themselves as ‘health conscious’ and ‘in control’. This positioning was maintained through separating the controlled Self from the (uncontrollable) body. The unpredictability of the body posed a threat to young people’s abilities to maintain control and denied them opportunities to exercise personal agency. Yet participants also described a number of subversive strategies in order to take back control and resist the experience of ill health. These potential agentic practices often held unintended consequences, including loss of optimal medical control or (self) exclusion from university life – offering new insights into the differing ways young people concomitantly take-up, rework and resist the pursuit of healthism to ‘successfully’ manage their health conditions.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Agency, Chronic illness, Students, Body, Healthism
Faculty: Faculty of Health, Education, Medicine & Social Care
Depositing User: Grace Spencer
Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2019 16:25
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2020 16:31

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