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Bodies and Language Health, Ailments, Disabilities Author: Vaidehi Ramanathan

Paperback - 152 pages
26 Nov 2009
Multilingual Matters
210 x 148


This book critically addresses the role of language in our collective construction of ‘normal’ bodies. Addressing a range of concerns linked with visible and invisible, chronic and terminal conditions, the volume probes issues in and around patient and caregiver accounts. Focussing on body conditions associated with breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, (type-1) diabetes, epilepsy, partial hearing and autism, the book draws on a range of critical theories to contest collectively assembled notions of ‘abnormality,’ ‘disability’ and ‘impairments.’ It also addresses the need for applied sociolinguists to take account of how our researching practices - the texts we produce, the orientations we assume, the theoretical grounds from which we proceed-- create ‘meanings’ about bodies and ‘normalcy,’ and the importance of remaining ever vigilant and civically responsible in what we do or claim to do.


Each of the seven chapters in this short, quietly explosive book leads the reader further away from the details of constructions of identity, illness, and disability and into a thicket of new and disturbing questions about social and linguistic constructions of ailments and disabilities in general, particularly those that are not physically apparent...New questions grow steadily from those Ramanathan raises; this review can barely scratch the surface.

- Language in Society 40:4 (2011)
- Boyd H. Davis, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, USA

The book skilfully brings together the parallel strands of illness and impairments of the mind and body and how they are 'Ianguaged' by society and the medical profession. Throughout, the author emphasises the importance of researchers keeping their practices honest and transparent. All 136 pages are crammed full of applied sociolinguistic terminology and discourse, critically analysing current narratives on models of disability and normalcy, which makes for a thought·provoking and fascinating read.

- Speech and Language Therapy in Practice, Autumn 2011
- Margaret Davis, a speech and language therapist with Derbyshire Community Health Services

In my opinion, this work stands out as a sincere attempt to humanize the role of language in conceptualizing our notions of (ab)normal in society. Given the rich accounts of those afflicted with health conditions, Ramanathan succeeds in identifying theoretical and methodological tensions that may serve as rich areas for contestation and exploration. More importantly, the work allows scholars to find ways to genuinely create possibilities by looking at how discourses shape and often marginalize our understandings of the social dimensions of disease and disability. Indeed, this book is an exemplary work that uses applied sociolinguistics in achieving transformative ends.

- Discourse Studies 14(3), 2012
- Paolo Nino Valdez, De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines

Author Biography:

Vaidehi Ramanathan is a professor of applied sociolinguistics in the department of linguistics at the University of California, Davis. Her previous publications include: Alzheimer Discourse: Some Sociolinguistics Dimensions (LEA 1997), The Politics of TESOL Education: Writing, Knowledge, critical pedagogy (2002, Routledge), and The English-Vernacular Divide: Postcolonial Language Politics and Practice (Multilingual Matters, 2005).

Readership Level:

Postgraduate, Research / Professional, Text

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