Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

Humanities, PhD

Committee Chair

Potter, Nancy Nyquist

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Allen, Annette

Committee Member

Allen, Annette

Committee Member

Theriot, Nancy

Committee Member

Charon, Rita

Author's Keywords

breast cancer; illness narratives; master narratives; counterstories; feminist philosophy


This work examines the construction and impact of the master narrative breast cancer which is supported and reified by the contemporary breast cancer awareness movement. I contend that historical problematic constructions of the female body were interwoven with the beginning of the movement around the turn of the twentieth century. As a partial result, the female body with breast cancer is abject, and therefore subject to policing and discipline. The master narrative of breast cancer, through pinkwashing, enacts this policing and discipline. The master narrative expresses several distinct messages which may be exclusive of the experiences of many people, causing those dealing with breast cancer to struggle to reconstruct their identity in the wake of the illness, and potentially creating epistemic injustice in which the moral agency of those subject to the master narrative is reduced. Through counterstories of breast cancer which resist and replace the master narrative, those who are subject to the master narrative attempt to be included in public discourse, reconstruct their identities, and restore moral v agency. I argue that, for this reason, we, as a culture, must bear witness to these counterstories.