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The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer

Changing Cultures of Disease and Activism

2008
Author:

Maren Klawiter

The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer

A richly textured analysis of the body politics of breast cancer activism

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.

The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer is persuasive, thickly textured, and beautifully written. This is a book that will attract a diverse readership, be taught in classrooms, and—ultimately—set agendas.

Steven Epstein, author of INCLUSION: The Politics of Difference in Medical Research

For nearly forty years, feminists and patient activists have argued that medicine is a deeply individualizing and depoliticizing institution. According to this view, medical practices are incidental to people’s transformation from patients to patient activists. The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer turns this understanding upside down.

Maren Klawiter analyzes the evolution of the breast cancer movement to show the broad social impact of how diseases come to be medically managed and publicly administered. Examining surgical procedures, adjuvant therapies, early detection campaigns, and the rise in discourses of risk, Klawiter demonstrates that these practices created a change in the social relations—if not the mortality rate—of breast cancer that initially inhibited, but later enabled, collective action. Her research focuses on the emergence and development of new forms of activism that range from grassroots patient empowerment to environmental activism and corporate-funded breast cancer awareness.

The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer opens a window onto a larger set of changes currently transforming medically advanced societies and ultimately challenges our understanding of the origins, politics, and future of the breast cancer movement.

Awards

Winner of the American Sociological Association’s Charles Tilly Award for the Best Book in Collective Behavior and Social Movements

The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer

Maren Klawiter holds a PhD in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. She was a postdoctoral fellow in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholars in Health Policy Research Program at the University of Michigan, and an assistant professor in science, medicine, and technology studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is currently pursuing a law degree at Yale University.

The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer

The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer is persuasive, thickly textured, and beautifully written. This is a book that will attract a diverse readership, be taught in classrooms, and—ultimately—set agendas.

Steven Epstein, author of INCLUSION: The Politics of Difference in Medical Research

For more than a decade, Klawiter has been mining the rich, complicated terrain of breast cancer in the United States, excavating theoretical gems alongside the compelling stories of people involved in breast cancer movements. The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer brings them all together in a fascinating, insightful tour de force.

Monica J. Casper, director of women’s and gender studies, Vanderbilt University

Biopolitics offers valuable history, especially for medical students, those interested in the sociology of medicine, and patients.

Choice

The book’s complete discussion of both the cultural history of breast cancer as well as various types of activism around the disease make this book useful for a variety of pedagogical, activist, and policy situations.

Mobilization

Maren Klawiter provides a compelling account of the shifting practices, discourses, and images of breast cancer and how these ‘disease regimes’ interact with the local breast cancer activism.

American Journal of Sociology

Klawiter deftly synthesizes complex theoretical literatures, expansive historical horizons, and detailed ethnographic and interview data and crafts a remarkable narrative that contributes to multiple fields of research. She also provides a helpful conceptual vocabulary for further research into terrains of patient activism. This book will be of value to anyone interested in social movements, the politics and policy of breast cancer, and patient activism and organization. Sociologists of all stripes will find something of value in this important book.

Contemporary Sociology

The book is to be commended on several accounts: for its careful examination of a complex theoretical body of scholarship, for its impressive empirical depth, and for its successful display of ethnographic methods at their best, both informative and thought-provoking. In a nutshell, this monograph is recommendable to a large readership on many different levels.

Sociology of Health & Illness