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The secret ring:: knowing asthma in Teeside's children

Todd, Alison (2003) The secret ring:: knowing asthma in Teeside's children. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



Asthma in children in Teesside in the north east of England is the subject of my research. Asthma is the most commonly diagnosed chronic health problem of childhood in the United Kingdom and its prevalence has increased markedly in recent decades. Previous research has identified it as being a particular health concern of people in Teesside. ‘What is asthma?' is my central research question, and I seek its answer in how people talk about asthma. My data is derived from semi-structured interviews with children with asthma and their families, observation of their consultations with health professionals in asthma clinics, and unstructured interviews within, and participant observation of, their local community. Asthma is presented as different modes of 'unhealth' - illness, disease, sickness and diagnosis, the last being a sub-category of, or the same as, sickness. Relationships are created between these different modes of asthma and other unhealths. Research focuses upon the contributions of biology, culture and history to asthma in Teesside's children. I show how relationships between the self and the other, the individual and the population, and the local and wider worlds contribute to how asthma is known in them. Throughout, a contrast is drawn between asthma as a thing and asthma as a word. Central to my argument is that the contribution of things and words to asthma is variable, and uncertainty over their respective contributions gives asthma its potency. The dissertation is, however, also about researching asthma. Reflexivity guides my research and I discuss how my dual background in medicine and anthropology has influenced my approach to researching asthma and to writing about it. Disciplines, I argue, discipline the practice and presentation of research: what asthma was when I practised medicine is not what I have researched here as an anthropologist.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2003
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Sep 2011 10:01

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