'Beyond being': Emergent narratives of suffering in Vietnam

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Intertwining ethnographic and literary accounts, this article explores the mutual relationship between suffering and agency. The article describes how young Vietnamese women use narrative to find meaning in the suffering that a late-term abortion causes. Seeking to further develop anthropological use of the concept of social suffering, the article argues that existing scholarship has tended to neglect the importance of human agency and imagination, hinging as it does on suffering as entrenched within structural forces. The article contends that this neglect must be understood in the context of the particular epistemological and ethical conditions under which anthropological studies of human suffering are produced, and that closer attention to the human engagements out of which ethnographic accounts are fashioned may bring into analysis not only the harm that social forces can inflict on people, but also their capacities for action and imagination.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)589-605
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2006

ID: 244496607