Breath and rhythm in the experience of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Rebecca Oxley (Durham University)
Paper short abstract:
By questioning theories of somatic awareness and 'biographical disruption', this paper considers the value of an Anthropology of Rhythm to explore the lived experiences of those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Paper long abstract:
Breath has rhythm. Patterns of breathing can signal states of being: contemplation, exertion, respiratory health, or pathological lung disease. Yet the rhythm of breath is evident beyond the immediacy of its inhalation and exhalation; the rate, motion and ease of breath can affect emotion, sensation and experience, just as the context of breathing can shape respiratory velocity. If 'breath' is lived as a wheeze, cough or as breathlessness in the context of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), what is the influence of these experiences on the everyday rhythm of people's lives? The stories of COPD sufferers indicate that life is associated with pacing, the careful management of identities and selves so as to minimise exposure to stigma and forces that might exacerbate symptoms. COPD is understood as a life sentence, stagnation, a shrinking of ones sense of being-in-the-world, and a change to the vital energy which fuels quality of life. By questioning theories of somatic awareness and 'biographical disruption', this paper considers the value of an Anthropology of Rhythm to explore the lived experiences of those with COPD, bringing further visibility to an arguably invisible disease.
Exposure: interdisciplinary perspectives on breath, air and atmospheres