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Living with Brain Injury

Narrative, Community, and Women’s Renegotiation of Identity

J. Eric Stewart

Publication Year: 2013

When Nancy was in her late twenties, she began having blinding headaches, tunnel vision, and dizziness, which led to the discovery of an abnormality on her brain stem. Complications during surgery caused serious brain damage, resulting in partial paralysis of the left side of her body and memory and cognitive problems. Although she was constantly evaluated by her doctors, Nancy’s own questions and her distress got little attention in the hospital. Later, despite excellent job performance post-injury, her physical impairments were regarded as an embarrassment to the “perfect” and “beautiful” corporate image of her employer.
Many conversations about brain injury are deficit-focused: those with disabilities are typically spoken about by others, as being a problem about which something must be done. In Living with Brain Injury, J. Eric Stewart takes a new approach, offering narratives which highlight those with brain injury as agents of recovery and change in their own lives.
Stewart draws on in-depth interviews with ten women with acquired brain injuries to offer an evocative, multi-voiced account of the women’s strategies for resisting marginalization and of their process of making sense of new relationships to self, to family and friends, to work, and to community. Bridging psychology, disability studies, and medical sociology, Living with Brain Injury showcases how—and on what terms—the women come to re-author identity, community, and meaning post-injury.
In the Qualitative Studies in Psychology series
J. Eric Stewart is a Clinical-Community Psychologist and Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell.

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. 1-5


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pp. v-7

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pp. vii-viii

The Greeks warned against counting anyone lucky before he or she was safely dead. Well, Homeric gods, I am very lucky in the friends, collaborators, exemplars, and advisors who have contributed so much to this project (and my life). First before firsts, I owe ultrahumble thanks...

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pp. 1-24

When Nancy was in her late twenties she began having blinding headaches, tunnel vision, and dizziness, which led to a diagnosis of a congenital arterial malformation on her brain stem. Surgery was scheduled and she wrapped projects at her job as a financial consultant, assuming...

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1. People and Methodology

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pp. 25-51

The first interviews conducted for this study were with Rose and Cindy, both of whom asked many questions about the study, its aims and methods. Both women also offered specific advice about how I should (and shouldn’t) proceed. Cindy, who had conducted life history research on...

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2. Meeting Post-Injury

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pp. 52-81

There is no universal rehabilitation experience. The site and severity of brain injuries vary greatly, as do the effects those injuries will have in the short and long runs, and these are difficult to predict (Doidge, 2007; Lezak, Howeisen & Loring, 2004). Diversity defines pre-injury,...

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3. Oneself as Another

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pp. 82-97

I have already drawn attention to ways in which the pre-injury self figures into the women’s accounts and in their experiences in rehabilitation. This presence, and the kinds of opposition or breach it may configure between the post-injury experience and pre-injury self, can play...

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4. Fighting

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pp. 98-136

The fight in recovery and rehabilitation is the fight to recover prior functioning. The self or identity that figures prominently is that of the pre-injury person, along with the even more supernatural future fully restored person. What formal rehabilitation often doesn’t offer or support...

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5. Sense (and Sensibility) of Community

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pp. 137-174

Tobin Siebers (2008) makes the point that “oppressed social locations create identities and perspectives, embodiments and feelings, histories and experiences that stand outside of and offer valuable knowledge about the powerful ideologies that seem to enclose us” (8). The cultural...

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6. Wrestling with an Angel

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pp. 175-215

Most of the women discussed spiritual or religious commitments, beliefs, and/or communities as important to their identity and their recovery. Tracy was regular churchgoer and believer but didn’t see a connection between that and her injuries; the car accident was “just one...

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pp. 216-223

People with brain injury are most often spoken about by others, in the terms of others and in relation to the concerns and interests of others. Whether as intention or effect, the perspectives and vocabularies— just the third person-ness—of these representations problematize and...

Appendix: Brief Summary of Participants’ Demographics and Injuries

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pp. 225-226


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pp. 227-238


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pp. 239-245

About the Author

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pp. 247-256

E-ISBN-13: 9780814770221
E-ISBN-10: 0814770223
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814764718
Print-ISBN-10: 0814764711

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 862135527
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Living with Brain Injury

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Women -- Physiology -- Social aspects.
  • Women -- Health and hygiene -- Psychological aspects.
  • Brain damage -- Patients -- Rehabilitation -- Case studies.
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