“Think positively”: Parkinson’s disease, biomedicine, and hope in contemporary Germany

Ingrid Metzler*, Paul Just

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

4 Citations (Scopus)


Narratives of hope shape contemporary engagements with Parkinson’s disease. On the one hand, a “biomedical narrative of hope” promises that biomedical research will help to transform this treatable but incurable disease into a curable one in the future. On the other hand, a more individual “illness narrative of hope” encourages patients to influence the course of Parkinson’s disease by practicing self-care and positive thinking. This article asks how these two narratives of hope interact. It bases its argument on an analysis of data from 13 focus groups conducted in Germany in 2012 and 2014 with patients with Parkinson’s disease and their relatives. Participants were asked to have their say on clinical trials for advanced therapies for Parkinson’s disease and, while doing so, envisioned their biosocial selves in the present and the future. Three “modes of being” for patients were drawn from this body of data: a “users on stand-by” mode, an “unengaged” mode, and an “experimental pioneers” mode. Both narratives of hope were important to all three modes, yet they were mobilized at different frequencies and also had different statuses. While the biomedical narrative of hope was deemed an important “dream of the future” that participants passively supported without having to make it their own, the illness narrative of hope was a truth discourse that took an imperative form: having Parkinson’s disease implied the need to maintain a positive attitude.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-499
Number of pages17
JournalHealth (United Kingdom)
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • biomedicine
  • clinical trials
  • Germany
  • hope
  • Parkinson’s disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health (social science)


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