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Ignoring Symptoms

The Process of Normalising Sensory Experiences after Cancer

Tone Seppola-Edvardsen and Mette Bech Risør

This article explores the process of interpreting bodily sensations after completed cancer treatment. We base our analysis on repeated interviews over a period of 12 months with eight participants who had different cancer diagnoses. By using the concepts of ‘sensa- tion schemas’ and ‘sensation scripts’, we explore how sensation schemas of cancer dominated in the first period, while schemas of late effects and reduced tolerance for daily life activities gradually became more important as time went by. Scripts, or actions taken to reduce unpleas- ant sensations, gradually turned from seeking medical advice and check-ups to ignoring and waiting for it to go away. Later, adapting daily life to the new health situation became promi- nent, such as balancing rest and activity to avoid becoming exhausted.

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Approaching Health in Landscapes

An Ethnographic Study with Chronic Cancer Patients from a Coastal Village in Northern Norway

Magdalena Skowronski, Mette Bech Risør and Nina Foss

Chronic cancer patients (CCPs) pay attention and act in response to diverse bodily sensations they experience in everyday life after a cancer episode. Here, we analyse how North Norwegian CCPs use their familiar surroundings in an effort to counter bad mood, anxiety and symptoms of relapse and to strengthen their health. The core participants of the anthro- pological fieldwork over the course of one year were 10 CCPs from a small coastal village in northern Norway. By drawing on Tim Ingold’s understanding of taskscape, it is suggested that the participants after cancer treatment dwell in and engage with the surroundings of the village, including the core task of staying healthy. The participants are part of and embody the landscape through the temporality of taskscape, related to their ways of dealing with pain, worries and bodily sensations in everyday life.

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Rikke Sand Andersen, Mark Nichter and Mette Bech Risør

Inspired by the sensory turn in the humanities, anthropologists have coined the term ‘an anthropology of the senses’ to describe the study of the perceptual construction and output of bodily sensations and sense-modalities (cf. Howes 2006; Nichter 2008). Starting from the premise that different cultures and social settings configure, elaborate and extend the senses in different directions, key proponents have argued for a greater empirical and analytical attention to the cultural embeddedness and socio-biological basis of bodily perception and experience. This follows a rethinking of a series of theoretical (cf. Hinton et al. 2008; Ingold 2011) and methodological commitments in anthropology (cf. Pink 2009; Stoller 2004) that also holds relevance for anthropological studies of health and illness, which is the focus of this special issue on sensations, symptoms and healthcare seeking.