Chapter 4 Enactments of Self: Studying Binaries and Boundaries in Autoimmunity

Molly Kessler

What is the most important takeaway from your chapter?

Health and medicine are highly flexible, mutable, and responsive. We need theories in RHM that can engage with this mutability and I think intra-activity is one such approach. I hope readers leave this chapter with another theory in their toolkit for responding to new and different cases in RHM. 

If you were making discussion questions for students (advanced undergraduates or early graduate students) to go along with your chapter, what would they be? 

  • What issues do Cartesian binaries present? Why have these binaries been the focus and critique of scholarship for so long? Why do scholars continue to debate about binaries? 
  • What is “intra-activity”? Why is it helpful for RHM?  
  • What does intra-activity reveal that other frameworks (rhetorical or otherwise) might miss or understand differently? 
  • How can we study narrative to engage lived experiences in RHM? 

What questions do you feel your chapter leaves un-examined or where would you go with it next?

The chapter ends by making a call for future work in RHM to more explicitly attend to practices and the rhetorical consequences of those practices so I hope future work carries this forward. I also think the chapter is experimental in that I’m trying to take Karen Barad’s theory of intra-activity, bring it to RHM and these issues regarding binaries, and see if it can help tell us something valuable. I hope future work can build on my adaptation intra-activity for different contexts and cases in RHM. My chapter is focused on building theory and addressing what I see as a theoretical gap in our engagement with binaries, but I hope a next step for future work is to look outward and identify ways that intra-activity can solve problems or intervene in the world in meaningful ways.

Is there anything that you want those new to the field to know about RHM?

Well, first I would say: welcome to anyone new! ☺ But also, one of my favorite things about RHM is that it’s interdisciplinary and open. There’s space to try out new ideas (like I’m doing in my chapter in this book) and to engage with work within and beyond rhetoric that might help us understand and engage the world meaningfully. On top of that, RHM is a supportive community and folks are genuinely committed to helping each other, so don’t be afraid to reach out to others to ask questions, read drafts, etc. RHM is full of great people/scholars who are incredible mentors and collaborators!