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Embodied Fluidity and the Commitment to Movement: Constructing the Moral Self through Arthritis Narratives

Dana Rosenfeld and Christopher Faircloth
Symbolic Interaction
Vol. 27, No. 4 (Fall 2004), pp. 507-529
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction
DOI: 10.1525/si.2004.27.4.507
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/si.2004.27.4.507
Page Count: 23
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Embodied Fluidity and the Commitment to Movement: Constructing the Moral Self through Arthritis Narratives
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Abstract

While biomedical research reifies bodily movement in the lives of people with chronic illness as “functional mobility,” our analysis of biographical osteoarthritis narratives uncovers a moral commitment to movement as both a moral imperative and a technique to preserve a self threatened by the limits arthritis places on daily life. A content analysis of twelve interviews with arthritis sufferers shows that, in addition to the practical and emotional challenges of living with arthritis, these actors face the daily challenge of displaying their understanding of embodied fluidity—the timely and fluid movement through time and space—as a virtuous practice. Our informants use the movement mandate—the commitment to move despite the pain it may cause—to produce themselves as competent social and moral actors sacrificing the demands of their bodies to meet social expectations, and they conduct this performance in front of several audiences: the self and specific and generalized others. For these informants, in both private and public realms, the experience and the management of pain and physical limitation are profoundly social and accountable matters, as they affect interactions with others, their own social identities and moral integrity, and their relations with self as they seek to balance their arthritis pain with their past, present, and future self-concepts.

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