On Illegitimacy, Suffering and Recognition: A Diary Study of Women Living with Chronic Pain

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Sociology, 2015, 49 (4), pp. 712 - 731
Issue Date:
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© 2014, © The Author(s) 2014. Chronic back pain affects a significant proportion of older women, often with severe implications for their social lives, relationships and families. It is often characterized by intractability and causative ambiguity, challenging a range of medical and moral boundaries around sickness and wellness. In this study, we utilize solicited diaries with women to capture the day-to-day undulations of living with chronic back pain. These diaries provide rich insight into issues around: disrupted roles and social lives; experiences of perpetuality and isolation; acts of pretense and withdrawal; and, its perceived illegitimacy as an illness experience. Situated within gendered and life-stage cultural scripts, these women’s diaries illustrate how ideas about legitimacy and worthiness circulate within and around the social milieu of chronic back pain. We posit that individualized shame and dynamics of recognition are central to women’s suffering, reflecting persistent and disruptive social hierarchies of illness.
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