Genetic hauntings: Mediating pre-patienthood and haunted health on TV


  • Ann-Katrine Schmidt Nielsen University of Oslo, Norway
  • Carsten Stage Aarhus University, Denmark



Genetic testing, health hauntology, pre-patienthood, pre-patient illness narratives


Through the development of a “health hauntological” approach, this article investigates how pre-patient illness narratives are mediated and negotiated in and around the DR documentary series Gentesten ændrede mit liv (2020) [The gene test changed my life]. We argue that this documentary format attests to how the expansion of genetic testing technologies alters experiences, genres, and narratives of illness that increasingly move to a pre-diagnostic and pre-symptomatic domain. The analysis shows how the use of genetic testing technologies creates hauntological situations in which pre-patients – through the mapping of family pathologies of the past and possible future diagnoses – encounter the complex temporalities and entanglements inherent to genetic bonds. Furthermore, we claim that these haunting encounters with mortality, vulnerability, and potential loss can be acted on – or listened to – in various responsive ways. Mediating pre-patient illness narratives thus entails an ethical balancing between care for participants and the desire for tellable, transformational narratives.


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How to Cite

Schmidt Nielsen, A.-K., & Stage, C. (2023). Genetic hauntings: Mediating pre-patienthood and haunted health on TV. MedieKultur: Journal of Media and Communication Research, 39(74), 127–145.