Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The concept of "nerves" has received considerable attention in scholarly literature. Scholars agree that the concept represents an idiom of distress -- i.e., a culturally recognized and accepted means by which individuals can communicate their pain and suffering to significant others. In the dissertation, I make use of ethnographic data, including case histories of "nerves" sufferers, to examine the extent to which this conclusion applies to the Sicilian-Canadian "nerves" complex. My findings are consistent with the views expressed by other researchers.
The phenomenon, however, is much more complex; it does not serve solely as a means of expressing distress. Among Sicilian-Canadians the concept can be manipulated, in both medical and non-medical situations, to generate a number of alternative messages. My second goal in the dissertation, then, is to examine the many meanings people attach to the term within the context of Sicilian-Canadian belief and action. I argue that the "nerves" idiom also operates as an effective impression management technique. Individuals can make use of the concept to promote or maintain a positive image of themselves within the community. At a more general level of analysis, the phenomenon allows Sicilian-Canadians to voice their discontentment with certain aspects of the immigration experience. As part of this discussion I examine how these alternative messages are linked to the "language of distress".
Since other folk concepts may also serve as idioms of distress, I have created a classificatory model that allows me to compare and contrast "nerves" with these other phenomena. The model contributes to our understanding distress idioms by facilitating both intra- and crosscultural comparison. Finally, the dissertation addresses the implications of my findings for both the general study of "nerves", and the provision of health-care to Sicilian-Canadian patients. The work, then, has both a theoretical and an applied focus.
Migliore, Sam, "Stress, Distress, and "Nerves": A Sicilian-Canadian Idiom of Distress" (1991). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3554.