Developing a Relational Narrative about Diabetes: Towards a Polyphonic Story

Mirjam Stuij, Agnes Elling, Anja Tramper, Tineke Abma

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


The restitution story, the type of illness story about living a healthy life again, is the most prominent type in Western society. Patients who are unable to realise a restitution story might need an alternative ‘corpus of stories’ to draw on, for example narratives that more explicitly incorporate quest and/or loss. In this chapter, we present the narrative of Anja, a woman with diabetes who wanted, but was unable to live the restitution story. Although she seemed to have all characteristics in favour of ‘restitution’, such as willingness, capacities, and a higher socioeconomic background, she encountered losses and was not able to go back to her ‘normal life’. Through a sociological lens, her narrative habitus was influenced by her privileged position and expressed in her emphasis on ‘starting all over again’, departing from dominant health discourses that emphasise restitution and individual responsibility. The encounters with the voice of the researcher(s) made her aware of the dominant storyline and, as an incidental outcome of the research process, enabled her to reconstruct her story. Along the way, Anja’s story became more polyphonic, as she began to incorporate the voices of the researcher(s) and others. A detailed elaboration of this specific case shows the relational dynamics of narrative development and interpretation, and offers important implications for health care. It points towards the importance of attentiveness, responsibility, and responsiveness as well as solidarity with a broader group of patients suffering from diabetes, including those in less privileged positions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVoices of Illness: Negotiating Meaning and Identity
PublisherBrill | Rodopi
Number of pages268
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2019

Publication series

NameVoices of Illness: Negotiating Meaning and Identity

Cite this

Stuij, M., Elling, A., Tramper, A., & Abma, T. (2019). Developing a Relational Narrative about Diabetes: Towards a Polyphonic Story. In Voices of Illness: Negotiating Meaning and Identity (pp. 248). (Voices of Illness: Negotiating Meaning and Identity). Brill | Rodopi.