Drawing on ethnographic work with one family in Baltimore that began over a decade ago, I consider how time, symptom, and forms of vulnerability and precarity come to shape polypathia (comorbidity). First, I attempt to demonstrate how life with concurrent and recurring illness has a character more dense than interwoven disease etiologies or a general pattern of symptomatology. Chronic illness in its plural form offers terms of life and living that are contingent, disruptive, and dissolving—not so much situated in time as out of step with its familiar cadence. Second, I consider time through the lenses of return, loss, and repair. Ethnography, like illness, has a rhythm, and it is this shared, distorted meter that the essay follows. Life—filling up and emptying out between past and present—is precisely the object here. Chronic illness acts as a temporal threshold through which life finds new ground or is set adrift.
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Todd Meyers; The Poisonous Ingenuity of Time. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 April 2016; 115 (2): 351–365. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-3488453
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