2. Jahrgang, 2/2017

Bringing the “empty shell” back to life:
On the metaphorical co-construction of dementia in potential-oriented contexts

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Heinrich Grebe


This paper presents an analysis of metaphors for dementia found in press reports self-help and experience-based literature, and nonfiction books that mainly were published in Germany. The metaphors in question derive from a relatively recent discursive context that can be characterized as “potential-oriented.” The metaphors used in this context play a key role in interpreting and mediating experiences of dementia: They identify specific skills possessed by people with dementia, highlight effective ways of offering support and illustrate the many aspects of living with dementia. A few “deficit-oriented” metaphors for dementia are included in the analysis by way of contrast. A comparison of the two reveals the structural characteristics of a discursive re-evaluation of the phenomenon of dementia based on metaphorical usage. The metaphorical structures in question are identified by reference to the differentiation between structural, orientational and ontological metaphors developed by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. The analysis of metaphors is preceded by an overview of biomedical, social scientific and cultural studies perspectives on dementia.
Keywords:Dementia, Alzheimer’s, metaphors, discourse, power/knowledge

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