Denielle Elliott

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

New York U.

Grant number

Gr. 9405

Approve Date

April 18, 2017

Project Title

Elliott, Dr. Denielle Aschell, York U., Toronto, Canada - To aid research on 'Neurological Imaginaries: An Ethnography of Cerebral Suffering and Brain Trauma'

Preliminary abstract: Neurological imaginaries saturate media and public science. Today’s world is marked by a particular pre-occupation with the brain and what the neurosciences might tell us about humanity, health, and behaviours. Medical sciences remain the dominant point of reference for understanding the brain generally, and brain trauma more specifically. In neurology, conventional scientific findings from neuroimaging, post-mortem brains, and animal studies (rat and mice brains, for instance) are prioritized, while contextual, political, subjective, and experiential knowledge are usually discounted, or deemed non-evidence. Yet, brain trauma and injuries are most obviously felt and embodied by those who sustain them. The primary aim of this project is to explore the body’s capacity to disrupt and shift scientific knowledge and medical logic. Combining ethnographic memoir with affect theory, the project considers embodied knowledge that emerges from injury and physical trauma and its transformative potential to unsettle medical practice and scientific thought. Reflecting on my own traumatic brain injury during fieldwork and the subsequent neuro-surgeries and care, I ask the following questions: How do neurologists decide in everyday clinical practice what is considered legitimate evidence of a traumatic brain injury? How are these decisions shaped by local cultural and social knowledge, and/or shaped by international universal guidelines? Which forms of evidence remain imperceptible, indeterminate, and immaterial in neurology? How might we account for that which is felt? My unique experience of receiving neurological care and treatment in three locales provides an ideal context to consider local articulations in neuro-medicine and unstable evidentiary claims (Berg and Mol 1998; Mol 2002).