Book Cover

Stigma Stories

Rhetoric, Lived Experience, and Chronic Illness

Molly Margaret Kessler

240 pp. 6 x 9
Pub Date: May, 2022

Subjects: Rhetoric & Communication
Disability Studies
Cultural Studies

order Hardcover $119.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-1491-6
order Paperback $29.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-5833-0
Order PDF ebook$37.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-8210-6

“A welcome addition to a lineage of texts that closely examine stories of individuals living with chronic illnesses and conditions. … I, personally, felt comforted by Kessler’s willingness to approach a subject so intimate and so important to many people’s lived experience.” —Michelle Cowan, H-Sci-Med-Tech

“Kessler’s revelations regarding the importance of lived experience to rhetorical studies of health and medicine not only serve the ethical mandate to fight stigmatization but are also significant, insightful, and on the cutting edge of the field.” —Jenell Johnson, author of American Lobotomy: A Rhetorical History

“Kessler’s highly original praxiography on ostomies and GI conditions traces the concept of stigma through stories of lived experiences that reveal the ways stigma is rhetorically perpetuated and challenged. The thought-provoking insights in Stigma Stories will make an invaluable contribution to interdisciplinary conversations about stigma.” —Lora Arduser, author of Living Chronic: Agency and Expertise in the Rhetoric of Diabetes

In Stigma Stories: Rhetoric, Lived Experience, and Chronic Illness, Molly Margaret Kessler focuses on ostomies and gastrointestinal conditions to show how stigma is nearly as central to living with chronic conditions as the conditions themselves. Drawing on a multi-year study that includes participant observations, interviews, and rhetorical engagement with public health campaigns, blogs, social media posts, and news articles, Stigma Stories advocates for a rhetorical praxiographic approach that is attuned to the rhetorical processes, experiences, and practices in which stigma is enacted or countered.

Engaging interdisciplinary conversations from the rhetoric of health and medicine, disability studies, narrative medicine, and sociology, Kessler takes an innovative look at how stigma functions on individual, interpersonal, and societal levels. In doing so, Kessler reveals how  stories and lived experiences have much to teach us not only about how stigma functions but also about how it can be dismantled.

Molly Margaret Kessler is Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.


Chapter 1        Studying Stigma: A Rhetorical Approach to Stories and Lived Experience
            Rhetoric of Stories, Stigma, Lived Experiences
            Studying Stigma Stories
            Preview of Chapters
Chapter 2        Listening for Stigma: Praxiographic Solutions and Stigma in Practice
            Critiques of Stigma Research
            Praxiographic Solutions
            Stigma in Practice
            An Ethical Case for Engaging Stigma Praxiographically
Chapter 3        Staging Stigma: Ostomies as Worst-Case Scenarios
            Leaks, Stigma, and Visceral Publics
            Worst-Case Scenarios: Ostomies in Public Health Campaigns
            Ostomies on TV: Fear and Disgust in Popular Media
            Staging Stigma through Fear
            Credibility Enhanced through Stigma
Chapter 4        Protesting Stigma: Disruptive Stories, Temporality, and Ostomies as Lifesavers
            Temporality, Disability, and Progressions of Experience
            Rejecting Compulsory Nostalgia: Disruptive Ostomy Stories as Protest
            Disruptive Stories, Disruptive Timelines
            Complicating a Two-Sided Story
Chapter 5        Managing Stigma: Visual Acts of Resistance
            Normalcy, Norms, and the Impossibility of Normalization
            Displaying Ostomies and Soliciting Stares
            Visual Rewards and Risks: Sexualizing Disability
            Showing Off Ostomies and Arriving at the Destination of Normal
Chapter 6        Thinking with Stories: Toward Stigma Interventions
            The Value of a Praxiographic Approach to Stories
            Interventional Insights
            Conducting Entangled Research

Related Titles:

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Rhetoric of Health and Medicine As/Is

Theories and Approaches for the Field

Edited by Lisa Melonçon, S. Scott Graham, Jenell Johnson, John A. Lynch, and Cynthia Ryan

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Vaccine Rhetorics

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Living Chronic

Agency and Expertise in the Rhetoric of Diabetes

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