While having a breast reconstruction, women have certain expectations about their future breasted bodies. The aim of this paper is to describe and analyze these expectations in the process of reconstruction. By applying a qualitative, phenomenological study within a longitudinal research design, this paper acknowledges the temporarily complex, contextualized, embodied, and subjective nature of the phenomenon of expectations. The analysis identified expectations regarding three different aspects of women’s embodiment: their gazed body, their capable/practical body, and their felt body. After reconstruction, (...) these women try to reconfigure—adjust, level or retrospectively rewrite—their expectations. Further, some women face what apparently arrives totally unexpected, namely a strange feeling breast or a failed reconstruction. The development of these women’s expectations can be understood as an active, continuously evolving, difficult and sometimes impossible dynamic of expecting the surprise that is a breast reconstruction. Within this dynamic, women formulate and reconfigure—by definition—unrealistic expectations and validate and try to achieve unexpected futures. We suggest that medical professionals can facilitate this dynamic in various ways. (shrink)
This article provides a phenomenological analysis of the difference between self-recognition and recognition of another, while referring to some contemporary neuroscientific studies on the rubber hand illusion. It examines the difference between these two forms of recognition on the basis of Husserl’s and Merleau-Ponty’s work. It argues that both phenomenologies, despite their different views on inter-subjectivity, allow for the specificity of recognition of another. In explaining self-recognition, however, Husserl’s account seems less convincing. Research concerning the rubber hand illusion has confirmed (...) that self-recognition involves more than an immediate experience of oneself. Merleau-Ponty’s later work, describing self-recognition as the result of assimilative identification, will be used to explain the possibility of illusion between one’s “hereness” and “thereness”. The possibility of this illusion is inherent to self-recognition, while it is lacking in recognition of another. (shrink)
Although scars never disappear completely, in time most people will basically get used to them. In this paper I explore what it means to habituate to scars against the background of the phenomenological concept of incorporation. In phenomenology the body as Leib or corps vécu functions as a transcendental condition for world disclosure. Because of this transcendental reasoning, phenomenology prioritizes a form of embodied subjectivity that is virtually dis-embodied. Endowing meaning to one’s world through getting engaged in actions and projects (...) is most successful indeed when one’s body is “absent,” “transparent,” or, at least, if it is not in the center of one’s attention. This taken-for-granted nature can be disturbed by discomfort, disability, and disfigurement. Incorporation, so I explain, aims at maintaining or restoring the body’s taken-for-grantedness. My analysis of the case of a woman who successfully habituated to her mastectomy scar demonstrates, however, that habituation to a perceptible scar can only be understood partly in terms of incorporation. Next to a decrease of explicit attention for the scar and the discomfort it produces, the scar should also stop being a sign that refers to something else than itself. This is only possible, I argue, by taking the body’s materiality seriously, rather than it being wiped out as a result of transcendental reasoning. (shrink)
The ever increasing ability of medical technology to reshape the human body in fundamental ways—from organ and tissue transplants to reconstructive surgery and prosthetics—is something now largely taken for granted. But for a philosopher, such interventions raise fundamental and fascinating questions about our sense of individual identity and its relationship to the physical body. Drawing on and engaging with philosophers from across the centuries, Jenny Slatman here develops a novel argument: that our own body always entails a strange dimension, a (...) strangeness that enables us to incorporate radical physical changes. (shrink)
In this paper, I explore the meaning of bodily integrity in disfiguring breast cancer. Bodily integrity is a normative principle precisely because it does not simply refer to actual physical or functional intactness. It rather indicates what should be regarded and respected as inviolable in vulnerable and damageable bodies. I will argue that this normative inviolability or wholeness can be based upon a person's embodied experience of wholeness. This phenomenological stance differs from the liberal view that identifies respect for integrity (...) with respect for autonomy (resulting in an invalidation of bodily integrity's proper normative meaning), as well as from the view that bodily integrity is based upon ideologies of wholeness (which runs the risk of being disadvantageous to women). I propose that bodily integrity involves a process of identification between the experience of one's body as “Leib” and the experience of one's body as “Körper.” If identification fails or is not possible, one's integrity is threatened. This idea of bodily integrity can support breast cancer patients and survivors in making decisions about possible corrective interventions. To implement this idea in oncology care, empirical-phenomenological research needs to establish how breast cancer patients express their embodied self-experiences. (shrink)
Evaluation of quality of life, psychic and bodily well-being is becoming increasingly important in oncology aftercare. This type of assessment is mainly carried out by medical psychologists. In this paper I will seek to show that body experience valuation has, besides its psychological usefulness, a normative and practical dimension. Body experience evaluation aims at establishing the way a person experiences and appreciates his or her physical appearance, intactness and competence. This valuation constitutes one’s ‘body image’. While, first, interpreting the meaning (...) of body image and, second, indicating the limitations of current psychological body image assessment, I argue that the normative aspect of body image is related to the experience of bodily wholeness or bodily integrity. Since this experience is contextualized by a person’s life story, evaluation should also focus on narrative aspects. I finally suggest that the interpretation of body experience is not only valuable to assess a person’s quality of life after treatment, but that it can also be useful in counseling prior to interventions, since it can support patients in making decisions about interventions that will change their bodies. To apply this type of evaluation to oncology practice, a rich and tailored vocabulary of body experiences has to be developed. (shrink)
Dit themanummer is gewijd aan de grenzen van het lichaam. Een grens bepaalt wat tot het eigene behoort en wat niet. Vanuit verschillende perspectieven zullen wij de grenzen tussen het eigene en het vreemde thematiseren. In dit artikel leid ik deze problematiek in aan de hand van Jean-Luc Nancy's filosofische analyse van de vreemdheid van het eigen lichaam.
Prosthetic devices that replace an absent body part are generally considered to be either cosmetic or functional. Functional prostheses aim to restore lost physical functioning. Cosmetic prostheses attempt to restore a “normal” appearance to bodies that lack limbs by emulating the absent body part’s looks. In this article, we investigate how cosmetic prostheses establish a normal appearance by drawing on the stories of the users of a specific type of artificial limb: the facial prosthesis. Given that prostheses are first and (...) foremost devices worn upon the body, such an analysis requires an understanding of the ways in which bodies and technologies interact. We thus interpret users’ stories by critically engaging with the work of disability researcher and Actor-Network theorist Myriam Winance, as well as with the postphenomenological scholarship of Don Ihde and Peter-Paul Verbeek. Using this framework, we explore users’ attempts to achieve a proper fit between their faces and their prostheses, the technological transparency such a fit enables, and the ways in which transparency mediates users’ everyday exchanges with others. We conclude that a normal appearance, when it is achieved by means of prosthetics, enables the device’s user to navigate a precarious social environment as they encounter and interact with others in public. (shrink)
Women intimately interact with various medical technologies and prosthetic artifacts in the context of breast cancer. While extensive work has been done on the agency of technological artifacts and how they affect users’ perceptions and experiences, the agency of users is largely taken for granted hitherto. In this article, we explore the agency of four women who engage with breast cancer technologies and artifacts by analyzing their narrative accounts of such engagements. This empirical discussion is framed within the tradition of (...) science and technology studies, philosophy of technological mediation and phenomenology of embodied agency as ‘I can/not’. This approach leads to the conclusions that women’s technologically mediated agencies range from being restricted to extended, take place on different bodily levels, within complex temporal structures, and are determined by certain socio-cultural contexts. Furthermore, it reveals that such agency shaping does not imply a one-way conditioning relationship between technologies and users, but rather involves a reciprocal relationship in which both subject and object are co-constituted. We therefore suggest that the ‘material turn’ in philosophy of technology also needs to take into account technologically mediated, material human beings in order to gain a better understanding of human existence. (shrink)
Les technologies contemporaines de l’image, telles que les ultrasons, l’endoscopie, et autres IRM et scanners, transforment l’image de notre corps. Dans cet article, cette transformation est particulièrement mise en lumière à partir d’une œuvre de Mona Hatoum intitulée “ Corps étranger ”. Cette œuvre d’art consiste en une projection vidéo d’images endoscopiques de l’intérieur du corps de l’artiste. On dit souvent qu’il est impossible de s’identifier soi-même à partir de ce type d’images dans la mesure où elles sont difficilement reconnaissables (...) comme des parties de son corps propre. Ou encore qu’elles n’appartiennent pas à l’image narcissique du corps. A l’aide d’une analyse phénoménologique et psychanalytique, l’auteur s’attache ici au contraire à montrer que de telles images fournissent une image affective de notre corps propre et qu’à travers elles il devient possible d’affronter l’étrangeté de celui-ci. (shrink)
This volume focuses on Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s important contribution to the phenomenology of corporeity and affectivity, and it explores the various influences his work had and still has on other disciplines.
In recent years, facial difference is increasingly on the public and academic agenda. This is evidenced by the growing public presence of individuals with an atypical face, and the simultaneous emergence of research investigating the issues associated with facial variance. The scholarship on facial difference approaches this topic either through a medical and rehabilitation perspective, or a psycho-social one. However, having a different face also encompasses an embodied dimension. In this paper, we explore this embodied dimension by interpreting the stories (...) of individuals with facial limb absence against the background of phenomenological theories of the body, illness and disability. Our findings suggest that the atypical face disrupts these individuals’ engagement with everyday projects when it gives rise to disruptive perceptions, sensations, and observations. The face then ceases to be the absent background to perception, and becomes foregrounded in awareness. The disruptions evoked by facial difference call for adjustments: as they come to terms with their altered face, the participants in our study gradually develop various new bodily habits that re-establish their face’s absence, or relate to its disruptive presence. It is through these emergent habits that facial difference comes to be embodied. By analyzing the everyday experiences of individuals with facial limb absence, this article provides a much-needed exploration of the embodied aspects of facial difference. It also exemplifies how a phenomenological account of illness and disability can do justice both to the impairments and appearance issues associated with atypical embodiment. (shrink)