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Honoursmodule: Speaking of Sickness

In this course, we will analyze and critique (personal and public) ‘ways of speaking’ about health and illness in order to fully understand how health and illness operate as social, cultural, and political (re)constructions.

Health and illness transcend the limits of our bodies: they are social, cultural, and political realities, too. Living with an illness, for instance, often comes with the social restrictions of ‘the sick role’ or even stigmatization, whereas calls to ‘get fit’ can be understood as a form of biopolitics. Additionally, health and well-being, or lack of it, are construed through culturally or semiotically productive practices: they generate and disseminate images, narratives, and connotations, they project notions of citizenship and personhood, and they imply oppositions – unstable as they may be – between normal and deviant, legal and illegal, natural and unnatural.

In class, we discuss selected readings from a variety of relevant disciplines – humanities, medical sociology, philosophy of psychiatry, etc. Additionally, we assess different methods, concepts, and tools to analyze cultures of health and illness, such as narrativity, discourse, performativity, and ideology. We also reflect on how healthy and ill subjectivities are construed along identity axes such as gender, class, race, and validity, and to what extent individuals can ‘talk back’ at official languages of health and illness. Finally, we explore (through in-class group work) a selection of cultural objects, ranging from literary texts and self-help books to television performances and social media.


You can find the timetable on Datanose.


Registration is possible for second or higher year students participating in an Honours programme. The registration for the Honours courses will start on November 29, 10 am -  December 6, 11 pm, You can register through the online registration form that will appear on Honoursmodules IIS(registration is NOT through SIS or GLASS).

Please note: There is no guarantee for placement if you register after 6 December, so make sure you register on time. You will hear which course(s) you are registered for before 20 december. For questions about registration, please contact us at

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