Medicine uses body fluids for the construction of medical knowledge in the laboratory and at the same time considers them as potentially infectious or dirty. In this model, bodies are in constant need of hygienic discipline if they are to adhere to the ideal of the closed and clean organism without leakage of fluids. In contrast, psychoanalytical feminist body theory by Julia Kristeva (1982), Elisabeth Grosz (1989) and Margrit Shildrick (1999) has deconstructed the abject body and its fluids in Western culture and medicine. While postmodern feminism has often focused on discourses about bodies and illness to the neglect of their materiality, more recently, material feminism has drawn particular attention to lived material bodies with fluid boundaries and evolving corporeal practices (Alaimo and Hekman 2007). Stacy Alaimo has developed a model of the trans-corporeal body that is connected with the environment through fluid boundaries and exchanges (2010, 2012). Influenced by these trends in feminist body theory, illness narratives, often based on autobiographical experiences of female patients or their caregivers, have increased in recent decades in the West (Lorde 1980; Mairs 1996; Stefan 2007; Schmidt 2009; Hustvedt 2010). Such narratives often describe explicitly the material and affective aspects of intimate bodily experiences. In this article, I analyze two German quest narratives of illness: Charlotte Roche’s pop novel Feuchtgebiete
(2008) and Detlev Buck’s German-Cambodian film Same Same But Different
(2010) that is based on the memoir Wohin Du auch gehst
by German journalist Benjamin Prüfer (2007). In both narratives, the protagonists and their partners struggle in their search for love and identity with illness or injury in relation to body fluids, including hemorrhoids and HIV. I argue that Feuchtgebiete
and Same Same But Different
not only critique medical and cultural discourses on body (fluids) and sexuality but also foreground a feminist trans-corporeal concept of the body and of body fluids that is open to fluid identities and material connections with the (global) environment. At the same time, the conventional and sentimental ending of these quest narratives undermines the possibilities of the trans-corporeal body and its fluid exchanges.
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