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The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer

The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer: Changing Cultures of Disease and Activism

Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer
    Book Description:

    Maren Klawiter analyzes the breast cancer movement to show the broad social impact of how diseases come to be medically managed and publicly administered. Examining surgical procedures, early detection campaigns, and discourses of risk, Klawiter demonstrates that these practices initially inhibited, but later enabled, collective action. The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer ultimately challenges our understanding of the origins, politics, and future of the breast cancer movement._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5666-0
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. introduction Mapping the Contours of Breast Cancer
    (pp. xvii-xxxii)

    On an unusually clear, hot summer day in downtown San Francisco, I stationed myself along Market Street to watch the 1993 Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender Pride Parade. Although partitions separated the crowd from the parade participants, the event itself was highly interactive. Hundreds of thousands of onlookers lined the route, yelling, cheering, and applauding as parade participants wended their way down the street: waving, walking, marching, dancing, strutting, stomping, sashaying, floating, biking, and cruising through the Castro district in this, the official “Year of the Queer.” Dykes on Bikes, the crowd-pleasing favorite, kicked off the parade. They were followed by an assortment of...

  6. chapter 1 Social Movements without the Sovereign
    (pp. 1-48)

    In the United States of a century ago, contagious diseases such as pneumonia, typhoid, and tuberculosis represented the greatest threat to human health and survival. Cancer was of only marginal importance, in both relative and absolute terms. By the 1930s, however, cancer and contagious diseases had switched places. Cancer had become the second-leading cause of death, and contagious diseases had moved several rungs down the ladder.¹ 3the second half of the twentieth century as age-adjusted cancer incidence and mortality rates continued creeping upward and the specter of life-threatening contagious diseases born by air, water, animals, and insects continued to recede....

  7. Part I. Breast Cancer in Two Regimes

    • chapter 2 The Regime of Medicalization
      (pp. 51-84)

      Egyptian papyri from the eighteenth dynasty (1587–1328 BC) describe the medical treatment of breast diseases by surgery and other medical techniques, including the application of plasters, incantations to the gods, and the use of magical formulas.¹ Curiously enough, women living in the United States during the nineteenth century, the era of therapeutic pluralism, encountered a similar repertoire of treatments: surgery, the application of plasters, incantations to the gods, and the use of magical formulas sold as patent medicines. During this period, women with painful or troubling breast conditions could consult with orthodox, “regular” physicians. They could also seek relief...

    • chapter 3 Biomedicalization and the Biopolitics of Screening
      (pp. 85-104)

      During the 1970s and 1980s, new practices arose that gradually transformed the regime of sovereign surgeons and temporarily sick and symptomatic subjects. In this new regime of practices, the regime of biomedicalization, surgeons were dethroned, dangerous women were replaced by permanently “risky subjects,” and women diagnosed with breast cancer played an increasingly active role in their increasingly complicated and prolonged regimens of treatment.¹ Changes in the regime of medicalization occurred simultaneously along both of its axes: the biopolitics of populations and the anatomo-politics of individual bodies. This chapter examines the first of these—the public health discourses and practices that...

    • chapter 4 Biomedicalization and the Anatomo-Politics of Treatment
      (pp. 105-128)

      The biopolitics of screening, as we saw in chapter 3, changed the popular discourses and public administration of breast cancer. As it did so, it reconstituted ordinary women as risky subjects and repositioned them along the breast cancer continuum. This chapter explores the other half of the transformation in disease regimes: the anatomo-politics of treatment, focusing on key changes in the diagnosis, decision making, treatment, and “rehabilitation” of breast cancer patients. This chapter is not a history of cancer policy, cancer research, or cancer medicine but, rather, a genealogy of the breast cancer patient within the regime of biomedicalization. My...

  8. Part II. Cultures of Action in the Bay Area

    • chapter 5 Early Detection and Screening Activism
      (pp. 131-162)

      It is October again: National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast health is in the air and pink ribbons are everywhere. In the past two weeks I have been asked to Clean for the Cure with a Eureka vacuum, Cook for the Cure with a pink KitchenAid mixer, Kiss Cancer Goodbye with Avon lipstick, and Shop for the Cure with an American Express card. I can also race, walk, dance, swim, climb, golf, bike, hike, and kayak for breast cancer awareness, and I can attend elegant dinners and fashion shows to raise awareness. Awareness of what? Awareness of the importance of...

    • chapter 6 Patient Empowerment and Feminist Treatment Activism
      (pp. 163-198)

      In 1985 Jackie Winnow was diagnosed with breast cancer while serving as the coordinator of the Lesbian/Gay and AIDS Discrimination Unit of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. Despite her knowledge, position, and experience, Winnow was shocked to discover that even in the Bay Area, the epicenter of health consciousness and health activism, there were very few resources available for women with cancer and no collective consciousness of the political dimensions of the disease. Shortly after her diagnosis, Winnow began attending a women’s cancer support group led by Carla Dalton, another Berkeley feminist, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in...

    • chapter 7 Cancer Prevention and Environmental Risk
      (pp. 199-226)

      Chapter 6 examined the culture of feminist cancer activism in the San Francisco Bay Area. It traced that culture’s development from a handful of separate organizations with few interactions to a relatively cohesive and coherent culture of action and highlighted its relationship to, and differences from, the culture of screening activism. It also revealed that from their earliest days feminist breast/cancer organizations framed cancer as an environmental issue. This chapter continues that thread, tracing the growing ties between feminist breast/cancer and environmental organizations during the mid-1990s and analyzing the internally fragmented but dynamic COA that emerged.

      The culture of environmental...

  9. Part III. From Private Stigma to Public Actions

    • chapter 8 The Impact of Disease Regimes and Social Movements on Illness Experience
      (pp. 229-246)

      This chapter uses the narrative of one woman, Clara Larson, to examine the impact of disease regimes and social movements on illness experience, paying particular attention to the ways gender and sexuality shape and are shaped by disease regimes, social movements, and illness experiences.

      Clara Larson was recuperating from a stem-cell transplant with high-dose chemotherapy when I interviewed her in January 1998. A white, middleclass, fifty-six-year-old lesbian, a former social worker, and the mother of four adult children (one of whom introduced us), Clara had undergone the risky experimental procedure, preceded by six months of conventional chemotherapy and radiation therapy,...

    • chapter 9 Breast Cancer in the Twenty-first Century
      (pp. 247-276)

      Breast cancer, as Michael Lerner declared at the International Summit on Breast Cancer and the Environment in 2002, is a twenty-first-century phenomenon. By this the founder of Commonweal (the highly respected cancer and environmental health center in Bolinas, California) meant not that breast cancer is a disease new to the twenty-first century but, rather, that breast cancer engages twenty-first-century issues of environmental health that are crucial to the future of life on earth. In Lerner’s planetary vision, the women’s movement holds the greatest potential for building a global environmental health movement, and within the women’s movement it is the reproductive...

  10. conclusion The Body Politics of Social Movements
    (pp. 277-296)

    At the tail end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, women with breast cancer began marching out of medical clinics and family closets. They were joined in this journey by hundreds of thousands of ordinary women and men who became their supporters and allies in social change. Breast cancer—as a politicized discourse and an anchor of new identities, networks, solidarities, and sensibilities—became the linchpin of a new social movement. Over the course of the next decade a wide range of patient support and advocacy organizations, partnerships, and coalitions arose that challenged and changed the regime...

  11. appendix Multisited Ethnography and the Extended Case Method
    (pp. 297-310)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 311-364)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 365-398)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 399-399)