Data Matters: The Informatized Body in Cancer Narratives

© Media Watch 12 (1) 20-32, 2021
ISSN 0976-0911 | E-ISSN 2249-8818
DOI: 10.15655/mw/2021/v12i1/205455


Data Matters: The Informatized Body in Cancer Narratives


Meenakshi Srihari
University of Hyderabad, India



The informatization of illness in the form of databases, scans, and reports results in the absence of affective data. The vulnerability caused due to illness leads to an excess of feelings that the scientific and often bureaucratic mundanity of medical records refuses to capture.  How can the personal illness narrative supplement this absence of subjectivity in informatized medical representations bereft of affect?  Reading the rendering of biomedical data in Tom Corby’s digital data documentary, Marisa Acocella Marchetto’s graphic somatography Cancer Vixen, and Brian Fies’s graphic caregiving memoir Mom’s Cancer, this essay argues that the ill person encounters data presented by the medical institution – made objective through the authority of science – and counters it through a textual refashioning of the self. I identify this palimpsestuous layering of affect as ekphrastic and study the formation of the cancer patient’s narrative self via ekphrastic remediation.


Keywords: Affect, data, remediation, ekphrasis, graphic medicine



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Meenakshi Srihari is a Ph.D. student in the Department of English at the University of Hyderabad, India, studying cancer representations across media. Her research interests include the health humanities, graphic medicine, and transmedia studies.


Correspondence to: Meenakshi Srihari, Department of English, University of Hyderabad, Prof. CR Rao Road, Gachibowli, Hyderabad-500 046, India