Date of Award

May 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Samuel S. Graham

Committee Members

William Keith, Dave Clark, Rachel Spilka, Leslie Harris


Boundaries, Chronic Illness, Enactment, Intra-Activity, Ontology, Rhetoric of Health and Medicine


Chronic illnesses are seven of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States and the prevalence is rising. Of the many chronic illnesses, one group of diseases present particular concern and mystery—autoimmune diseases. These conditions manifest when a patient’s body attacks itself, causing a myriad of symptoms that often leave patients debilitated. Since 2013, I have been examining the contexts in which patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)—one type of autoimmune disease—reconsider their bodily boundaries while managing new, challenging communication experiences. The results of this research are presented in my dissertation, Bodily Boundaries: Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Rhetorical Enactments of self. My work suggests that bifurcations such as mind/body, and self/other, and the boundaries of patients’ bodies and identities are context-dependent enactments, negotiated through a variety of discursive and material actors. I argue that a new theoretical approach to dualisms and material agency must be developed through scholarship that calibrates the insights of rhetoric, medicine, and humanistic approaches to technology and medicine.