Digesting Stigma: Exploring the Illness Experience of New Zealanders with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (‘It’s just shitty’)
This thesis is an anthropological exploration of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and the first ethnographic study of people with IBS in New Zealand. It explores the illness experience of people with IBS and whether stigma plays a role within this experience. IBS is a gastrointestinal illness that affects 10-20% of New Zealand’s population. However, its aetiology is unknown, there is no cure, and the biomedical approach that informs its diagnosis and treatment is often incongruous with its lived experience. I posit that the illness experience of my participants and what is stigmatising for them must be understood not only in relation to its physical manifestations but also in relation to the biomedical and neoliberal influences that inform social expectations of the body and social participation. Further, participants experience their IBS simultaneously resisting and participating within these influences to make sense of and manage their illness in a way that aligns with their lived experiences. All work within this thesis is my own except where otherwise stated.