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Understanding the role of scars in adults' narratives of childhood liver transplantation: A sociological perspective

Lowton, Karen; Higgs, Paul; (2022) Understanding the role of scars in adults' narratives of childhood liver transplantation: A sociological perspective. Social Science and Medicine , 294 , Article 114709. 10.1016/j.socscimed.2022.114709.

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Abstract

For sociological and anthropological scholars alike, the body is both a physical and social entity as well as a project to be worked on by the self and by others (Tamari, 2020). However, scholars' conceptual work in organ transplantation and the body has tended to overlook the resultant surgical scars, yet these are borne by all transplantation recipients. For example, in understanding biomedicine's intervention in the body through the skin Shildrick (2008) uses the term 'corporeal cut' conceptually rather than focus on the flesh that is cut and the scar that subsequently forms. In this way body flesh has become abstract; cut but unmarked, with transplantation scars being an 'absent presence' in these disciplines' thinking. In this paper we attempt to develop a more nuanced understanding of how organ transplantation shapes both the corporeality of the body and the embodiment of the self through considering the concept of a transplant scar in three ways. First, through transplantation scars' dynamic physical appearance across their lifecourse and their symbolic meaning for their bearer. Second, how scars' coded messages are framed for 'stranger' audiences in the context of their little experience of organ transplantation; and third, through the scars' display and storytelling in the context of more intimate relationships. Interview data from 27 adult survivors of childhood liver transplantation, who bear either 'Lexus' or 'Mercedes' transplantation scars, are drawn upon to illustrate these concepts. Awareness of the meanings associated with the scar as well as others' reactions, imputed or not, to the physicality of the scar point to the significance of the body as a corporeal marker of personal narratives and negotiations. It also indicates the polysemic nature of the scarring and the way in which inventive narratives can play a positive as well as negative role in the lives of organ transplant recipients.

Type: Article
Title: Understanding the role of scars in adults' narratives of childhood liver transplantation: A sociological perspective
Location: England
DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2022.114709
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2022.114709
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
Keywords: Audience, Embodiment, Organ transplantation, Qualitative, Scar, Signs, Surgery, UK
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10143867
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