We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Research & business

View Profile

Publication details for Dr Angela Woods

Woods, Angela, Hart, Akiko & Spandler, Helen (2019). The Recovery Narrative: Politics and Possibilities of a Genre. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

Author(s) from Durham


Recovery is now widely acknowledged as the dominant approach to the management of mental distress and illness in government, third-sector and some peer-support contexts across the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the Anglophone Global North. Although narrative has long been recognised in practice and in policy as a key “technology of recovery,” there has been little critical investigation of how recovery narratives are constituted and mobilised, and with what consequences. This paper offers an interdisciplinary, critical medical humanities analysis of the politics and possibilities of Recovery Narrative, drawing literary theoretical concepts of genre and philosophical approaches to the narrative self into conversation with the critiques of recovery advanced by survivor-researchers, sociologists and mad studies scholars. Our focus is not on the specific stories of individuals, but on the form, function and effects of Recovery Narrative as a highly circumscribed kind of storytelling. We identify the assumptions, lacunae and areas of tension which compel a more critical approach to the way this genre is operationalised in and beyond mental health services, and conclude by reflecting on the possibilities offered by other communicative formats, spaces and practices.