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Making breath visible : reflections on relations between bodies, breath and world in the critical medical humanities.

Macnaughton, Jane (2020) 'Making breath visible : reflections on relations between bodies, breath and world in the critical medical humanities.', Body & society., 26 (2). pp. 30-54.


Breath is invisible and yet ever present and vital for living beings. The concept of invisibility in relation to breath operates in concrete and metaphorical ways to extend ideas about breath and breathlessness across disciplines, in clinical spaces and in life experience. Using a critical medical humanities approach, I demonstrate that the poverty of narrative accounts and language for breath outside the health context have had a crucial influence enabling clinically mediated interpretations and accounts to dominate. These third-person accounts are important in the articulation of the ‘lived body’, but I balance this with a consideration of the subjective sensation of interoception, which has important implications for the visibility of breathlessness in both clinical and lay contexts. This article illustrates the rich potential of the subjects of breath and breathlessness within body studies and this special issue is a key step in making breath such an emergent topic.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:22 May 2020
Date of first online publication:27 April 2020
Date first made open access:02 June 2020

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