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When the Unimaginable is Real

Dilmi S. Aluwihare-Samaranayake, MSN, MBA, author of our current featured article titled “Representations, Forbidden Representations, and the Unrepresentable Creating Visibility for Mapping Emancipatory and Transformative Nursing Praxis,” brings to light the plight of people who suffer unimaginable suffering and harm.  She proposes that our inability, even unwillingness, to represent these horrific experiences in written and spoken language impedes both the science and the practice of emancipatory nursing – an approach to nursing that seeks justice and remedies for human pain and suffering.  She shared this reflection on her work for ANS readers:

I am honored that my paper has been featured in this current issue of ANS. Grappling with the concepts representation, forbidden representation and the un-representable, together with tragic, devastating and unthinkably horrific life experiences of people plus feeling a strong sense for the importance of finding ways to help people, led me to write this paper.

There are those who drive decisions intentionally or unintentionally and those who harm Dilmi300themselves without thinking of the short or long-term consequences they face or the consequences for those around them. There is also no easy or set prescription to fit the amalgam of human experiences because of the diversity of circumstances and histories that shape people’s lives.

These views lead me to reflect on the following questions:

“Is it within the realm of possibility for us to prevent or alleviate horrific life experience? Is it possible for us to avoid natural and human disasters? As humans do our actions demonstrate that we value and respect all human life? Or is it our lack of value, respect and our presumptions that lead us to contribute to harming others and ourselves explicitly or implicitly. Can we really help people?”

Not to belittle the questions or the potential answers, but I believe the answers to these questions begin with a yes, although at different levels with different margins. I also suggest, however, that some life experiences do not need to be so horrific, and there is enough intelligence in the world and lessons to be learned to prevent horrific experiences, or at the very least, help people who have lived through these experiences to move forward.

I realize that debates on the aforementioned questions may seem hugely philosophical for some readers with representation, forbidden representation and the un-representable being new concepts or concepts not taken up for discourse frequently because of its marshy nature. I also appreciate that many readers may prefer to avoid these topics and because of this, these topics have not received the attention they deserve. However, in the wake of continuous incomprehensible life experiences faced by many, I believe dialogue (through writing, voice, drama and/or poetry) needs to happen and our research agendas must bring attention to the mélange of issues to assist in providing emancipatory and transformative nursing praxis and social justice that is, empowering and reflective.

Your views are welcome. Thank you.

While this provocative article is featured on the ANS web site, you can download it at no cost!  I join Ms. Aluwihare-Samaranayake in welcoming your views and comments related to her work, so after you have an opportunity to consider her article, please return here and share your ideas!

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