The Meaning of the Present: Hope and Foreclosure in Narrations about People with Severe Brain Damage

Abstract

In this article, I consider narratives told within a clinical setting. I argue that personnel in a day center for people with acquired brain damage are constantly involved in narrating about the disabled participants. The negotiation of who the participant is, and foremost will be, is in constant negotiation in regard to issues of hope. I further argue that hope is a meaning-making process and, as such, it has been defined as crucially connected to time. Hope has been said to enable a connection between the present and the future, because action taken in the present could bring about (positive) change in the future. However, I show that hope, in relation to narratives told about people with severe disabilities that are considered “incurable,” must be understood within a realm of narrative foreclosure. Time seems to have lost the openness of its horizon for these people, and a narrative that tells of immediacy rather than chronology is created, resulting in hope being established within the present.