The Journey Back Home - Processes of Disjuncture and Recovery in Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation

  • Lee Gallagher

Student thesis: Phd


A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a type of injury to the brain that occurs through a sudden impact to the head, for example through a car crash, sporting-injury, simple accident, or violent assault. TBI often brings irreversible changes across the whole range of personal and social life of the person, in a manner that not only affects them, but also has a significant impact upon wider networks of family and friends. Using a framework of medical, existential, and phenomenological anthropology, this project brings a sustained ethnographic focus to the experiences, symptoms, and effects that people undergo as a result of TBI, including how persons, families and groups negotiate the ongoing, often radical, transformations in perception, understanding, identity and communication that accompany brain injury. Through this detailed ethnographic approach to these issues, the thesis explores how TBI affects, and often distances, people from their familiar understandings of themselves and the world around them, and how this sets in motion a challenging-and often lifelong-period of adaptation and negotiation in the context of social, cognitive, and bodily instability. In setting these anthropological approaches into dialogue with Heideggerian phenomenology, as well as other forms of post-subjectivist philosophy such as the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, a key element of the current work is to develop theoretical strategies for engaging more deeply with the forms of tacit experience and understanding-and forms of sensory and embodied disruption-that whilst so central to the experience of TBI, struggle to find articulation in the existing literature. In addressing these serious limitations of the existing scholarship, the project aims to utilise these philosophical dialogues as a way to make a valuable contribution to the study of TBI as a complex personal and inter-subjective phenomenon, whilst also re-introducing the practical, everyday domain as a vital site in the process of rehabilitation. Beyond these aims, it also seeks to contribute more generally to the anthropological understanding of how forms of disruption and crisis are negotiated and managed in social life.
Date of Award31 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAnthony Simpson (Supervisor) & Andrew Irving (Supervisor)

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