, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 374–392 | Cite as

Terminal anticipation: entanglements of affect and temporality in living with advanced cancer

  • Katherine KennyEmail author
  • Alex Broom
  • Emma Kirby
  • David Wyld
  • Zarnie Lwin
Original Article


Narrative approaches within the social sciences have tended to privilege narrative coherence, with the thematic and sequential progression of one’s story from beginning through middle to end often seen as a virtue and as a hallmark of strong narrative identity. Illness narratives, however, often disrupt this temporal order insofar as they render the future—and thus the narrative’s end—uncertain. Advanced cancer calls the duration, even possibility, of one’s future into question, challenging the normative construction of temporally coherent narratives. In this paper, we draw on recent work theorising contemporary orientations towards the future under the rubric of ‘anticipation’ to analyse the illness narratives and embodied experiences of people living with advanced cancer. We show how the lived experience of precarious selfhood produced in relation to uncertain futures resists coherent narrativisation. We argue that attending to the affective presence of the future in the present and challenging the normativity of narrative coherence are important dimensions of contemporary cancer narratives.


Cancer Illness Temporality Future Narrative Anticipation 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the interview participants and the financial support of the Australian Research Council. Funding for this research was provided by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (DP150100414) and an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellowship (DE150100285).


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine Kenny
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alex Broom
    • 1
  • Emma Kirby
    • 1
  • David Wyld
    • 2
    • 3
  • Zarnie Lwin
    • 2
  1. 1.The University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Royal Brisbane and Women’s HospitalHerstonAustralia
  3. 3.Faculty of MedicineUniversity of QueenslandHerstonAustralia

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