Negotiating the contested terrain of narrative methods in illness contexts

Sociol Health Illn. 2010 May;32(4):647-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2010.01239.x.


This paper offers an interpretive account of an ongoing transatlantic debate about illness narratives instigated by the publication in 1997 of Paul Atkinson's paper Narrative Turn Or Blind Alley? The claims and counter-claims to be found in this debate about narrative data and narrative analysis are set out sequentially, in an attempt to grasp the debate's essentials. Matters of theoretical perspective, methodology, ethics, and personal politics are found to be at stake in the writings of the four featured academics: Paul Atkinson, Arthur Bochner, Arthur Frank and Elliot Mishler. The paper moves on to consider the types of sociologies at work in their arguments, and explores the debate's implications for the author's own illness narratives research project. The paper's overall aim is to assist researchers who seek to clarify their own thinking on the use of narrative research methods in illness contexts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Disease
  • Humans
  • Narration*
  • Negotiating*
  • Social Medicine*