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The imagined shared body: Interviewing ciswomen about menstruation

Gendering in Research Network - Talk by Mie Kusk Søndergaard, Department of Public Health – General Medicine, University of Southern Denmark

Info about event


Friday 24 February 2023,  at 11:00 - 13:00


Aarhus University, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 4, building 1483, room 656


Gendering in Research Network, Aarhus University
Mie Kusk Søndergaard

This work-in-progress presentation stems from an empirically encountered phenomenon in the research project “Gender, cancer symptomatology and care seeking”. When researcher(s) interviewed participants about their experiences with their own bodies, asking them to describe sensations connected to menstruation, participants often referred to perceived ‘common’ experiences or to a perceived shared understanding between the same sexed researcher and participant about ‘how a body feels’. That is, they used sentences such as “you know how it is” or “like everybody’s experience”.

Departing from empirical material, this talk will address the difficulties of interviewing people about their bodily experiences, and how interviews are affected by researcher and researched having similar (or different) bodies. Is the reference to a shared understanding in the interview situation due to an ‘imagined shared body’ to which all (cis?)women have access? Is it a way to navigate taboo in a conversation about menstruation? Is it due to a culturally underdeveloped language for ‘translating’ the embodied to the verbal? Is it simply a way of quickly answering a nosy researcher’s questions? This talk invites the audience to consider and discuss whether this is a particularly gendered phenomenon primarily affecting women, or a more generalized occurrence when verbalizing embodied sensations.

About the speaker
Mie Kusk Søndergaard is a PhD fellow at the Department of Public Health – General Medicine at University of Southern Denmark. She holds a BSc and MSc in Medical Anthropology from Aarhus University. Søndergaard’s current PhD research is on healthcare seeking for gynecological disturbances, how such disturbances are interpreted and managed in everyday life and within primary care consultations, including how sociocultural perceptions of female bodies play into encounters between women and medical professionals.