You can find most of my publications on my page and on my Goldsmiths staff page, where there are pre-publication versions of articles and chapters and links to blog posts.

My books -

Researching Race and Ethnicity (Sage, 2003)

Narrative and Stories in Health Care (Oxford University Press, 2009) - co-edited with David Oliviere

Death and the Migrant (Bloomsbury, 2013)

Image Nadia Betteta, portrait by patients at St Christopher's hospice

Image Nadia Betteta, portrait by patients at St Christopher's hospice

Case Stories related publications


My book 'Death and the Migrant' uses research from this project. Chapter 2 (Eros) about Cicely Saunders and the origins of hospice care, uses research in the Cicely Saunders Archive at King's College (London). Chapter 12 (Pain) is based upon the literature on social pain from the social sciences, palliative care and neuroscience.

Relevant Academic Articles

Y.Gunaratnam (2015) Illness narratives, meaning making and 'epistemic injustice' in research at the end of life. In Heike Gudat, Kathrin Ohnsorge and Christoph Rehmann-Sutter (Eds) ‘Patients Wish to Die: Research, Ethics and Palliative Care’ (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

In this chapter, I discuss the terms ‘narrative’ and ‘story’, before providing a general overview of relevant themes from the literature on illness narratives. Next, I discuss speech act theory, as one approach to interpreting the meaning of last wishes that takes into account the impact of the social and cultural milieu on the creation and understanding of meaning. Finally, drawing from the palliative care concept of ‘total pain’, I offer thoughts on the limitations of narrative and empathic understanding when people are suffering. It is here that I point to the ways in which narrative approaches can be valuable to care professionals and researchers in recognisng the challenges of being receptive to ambiguous and discontinuous meanings. The ideas that I examine problematise rationalist models of decision-making, subjectivity, and intersubjective communication. With regard to
last wishes, these ideas serve to question assumptions that final wishes and plans can:
(i) reflect unambiguous and rational desires and choices; (ii) be clearly communicated to another person who understands their meaning remain unchanged as they are communicated; and (iii) are stable over time. By unsettling these beliefs, I argue that narrative approaches have the potential to add interpretive depth to what is also being found in quantitative and qualitative research—that the meaning of last wishes and care preferences can be ambiguous and can change over time (Johansen et al. 2005; Evans et al. 2012). This is not to promote practices of ‘hermeneutical obstinacy’ (see Chapter 9 of the book), where the recognition of complexities in meaning can be used to manage and suppress the choices of those who are dying. Rather, my aim in this chaper is to contribute to the expansion of hermeneutic resources in end-of-life care.

Y. Gunaratnam (2014) Morbid Mixtures - Hybridity, Pain and Transnational Dying, Subjectivity (2014) 7, 74–91. doi:10.1057/sub.2013.21

Three stories about dying migrants in the United Kingdom are at the heart of this article. Working with these narratives, I investigate the neurobiological, subjective and socio-cultural entanglements of disease, pain and dying and the challenges such hybridisations present for attempts to recognise and alleviate suffering. My aim is to show the differential workings of hybridising forces with regard to assumed correspondences and time, as well as the indeterminate and liminal states of subjective experience that disease can amplify. The article engages with the growing literature on ‘social pain’ and suggests that social pain is the mortar rather than merely a reflection of the affects and neurology of transnational migrations, loss and social violation.

Keywords: bodies; care; ethics; migrants; neurology; temporality.

Digital Articles

Y.Gunaratnam (2014) Diasporic Walking Sticks, 17 February, Open Democracy

From the recent obituaries and tributes paid to Stuart Hall, a story is emerging of both an extraordinary intellectual and an utterly contemporary British predicament: that of Generation Exodus, our cohort of post-war migrants who came to the UK in the 1950s and 60s and who are now ageing and dying...

Y.Gunaratnam (2014) Unwitting racism and rise in abuse makes it harder for NHS staff to do their job, 13 February, The Conversation

Imagine going to work and starting the day by being told that a customer doesn’t want to deal with you because you are black. And the response from your employer is to ask your white colleague to serve them instead. For minority ethnic people working in health this happens more often than you would think....

Y.Gunaratnam (2014) Stephen Sutton and the Politics of the Deathbed Smile, 2 June, Open Democracy

There is complexity as much as complicity in the contemporary allure of the deathbed smile. As more people use social media to document their experiences of illness, dying and bereavement, we are offered a real-time intimacy and a humanizing of certain deaths, but at a safe distance. 

Vigil for Stephen Sutton: The portrayal of people with cancer is mired in a ‘cancer heroics’.       Credit: Twitter/Joe Giddens.

Vigil for Stephen Sutton: The portrayal of people with cancer is mired in a ‘cancer heroics’. Credit: Twitter/Joe Giddens.

What is less discernible is how a range of slow motion injuries set in train by poverty, economic exploitation and industrial and environmental disasters play out across the bodies and the life course of those on the social margins.

Case Stories coverage

Transnational Dying and Pain - Can Stories Help? European Association of Palliative Care blog, 4 April 2013

Multimedia project explores social pain, migration and end of life of life care - E-Hospice, 12 November 2013

Matilda and Me - Ria Hartley - Dementia News, 21 October 2013

Magnetic Resonance - A case story in the making, The Migration Weekly, 28 December 2013