The Paradox of Hope: Journeys through a Clinical Borderland

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"The Paradox of Hope shows how clinicians, families and patients employ hope in their illness narratives and treatment stories, and indeed, in their lives in general. A serious and revealing ethnographic exploration of hope as the making up of life."—Arthur Kleinman, Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University

"Among those writing studies of medicine and therapeutic practice, Cheryl Mattingly is, on my reading, the most elegant and insightful interpreter of clinical scenes. No one else can describe so well the drama, dance, and dialogue between all types of clinicians and their patients, including families. The depth and breadth of this ethnography are extraordinary, going from micro interactions to demographics, from small rooms to cityscapes. Mattingly’s 'narrative phenomenology' holds these potentially disparate strands together"—Arthur W. Frank, author of Letting Stories Breathe: A Socio-Narratology

"Mattingly’s book achingly reveals the possibilities and limits of a ‘blues hope’ that rallies critically ill, low-income African American children, their families, and, yes, even some clinicians, to enact ephemerally life-sustaining dramas against a backdrop of sober medical prognoses. We are ushered inside ‘clinical borderlands’ where misunderstandings among ‘familiar strangers’ have pernicious outcomes. Clinical borderlands are fraught with culturally shaped clashing genres—ineffective parental reports of symptoms, cryptic medical charts, and clinician accounts that cast doctor as sleuth, illness as battlefield, and body as broken machine. Yet, out of this array, borders are sometimes crossed, clinician-family partnerships formed, and a hopeful future opened through heroic acts that become re-experienced as life-transforming narratives." —Elinor Ochs, Professor of Anthropology, UCLA

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Editorial Reviews


“This work of outstanding scholarship should be a great addition to collections of medical anthropology and health studies.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520267343
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 12/2/2010
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Cheryl Mattingly is Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Division of Occupational Science at the University of Southern California. She is the award-winning author of Healing Dramas and Clinical Plots: The Narrative Structure of Experience and coeditor, with Linda Garro, of Narrative and Cultural Construction of Illness and Healing (UC Press), among other books.
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Table of Contents


1. The Lobby
2. Narrative Matters
3. Border Trouble
4. Widening the Gap: The Creation of a Conflict Drama
5. Plotting Hope
6. Daydreaming: Captain Hook Gets Speech Therapy
7. Fleeting Hope
8. Narrative Phenomenology and the Practice of Hope


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