Metaphors in action: Representations and rhetorics in the Western sociocultural imagery of Alzheimer’s disease

  • Elisa Pasquarelli Università di Perugia, Italy


This article provides an overview of the debate on personhood and selfhood in Alzheimer’s disease begun in the 1980s to react to the dissemination of dehumanizing metaphors that framed this health condition as a “loss of self” and the affected individual as a “non-person”. Theoretical reflections, phenomenological studies, person-centred programs have criticized the visions of the total destruction of person and self. In particular, these approaches have shown that the abilities of expression and action are preserved even at relatively advanced stages of the disease. They promoted the acknowledgment of the importance of the affective, social, relational dimensions, the stories of life and the illness experience of the person fully recognized. Nevertheless, even these approaches produce stereotypes and the adhesion to the metaphorical constructs is still entrenched. I will illustrate these plural discourses and describe the main metaphors, representations and rhetorics focused on Alzheimer’s disease and the affected persons in the Western contexts.


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Author Biography

Elisa Pasquarelli, Università di Perugia, Italy

Elisa Pasquarelli, Phd in Ethnology and Ethno-anthropology (Sapienza University of Rome 2012), is specialized in the study of biomedicine and hospitals. Her main fields of research include medical anthropology, hospital ethnography and anthropology of aging. Since 2008, she has been carrying out a long-term research on Alzheimer and Mild Cognitive Impairment. She has put a leading focus on the historical and contemporary debate on these labels, the biomedical practices related to them and the early diagnosis of Alzheimer. She is author of the book Antropologia dell’Alzheimer. Neurologia e politiche della normalità (Alpes Italia, 2018) and articles appeared in scientific journals.

How to Cite
Pasquarelli, Elisa. 2019. “Metaphors in Action: Representations and Rhetorics in the Western Sociocultural Imagery of Alzheimer’s Disease”. Anuac 8 (2), 37-60.