In this chapter, the author considers some of the theoretical and methodological conundrums that she encountered in her qualitative research that has focused on later life experiences of the aging body as a site of inequality. Western culture is replete with deeply entrenched ageist stereotypes, which position old bodies as inherently asexual, dependent, frail, obsolete, senile, unproductive, and undesirable. Negative cultural constructions of old bodies are further reflected in and buttressed by masculinity and femininity ideals as well as societal assumptions concerning personal responsibility for health. Collectively, these cultural norms shape research in powerful ways as they lead to the avoidance of certain topics, taken-for-granted assumptions that are difficult to elicit or interrogate, and complex power dynamics between researchers and study participants. Reflecting on the intricacies of researching later life body image and embodiment, I offer some suggestions about how the challenges might be reframed as opportunities.
Anthony Ryan Hatch, Julia T. Gordon, and Sonya R. Sternlieb
The new artificial pancreas system includes a body-attached blood glucose sensor that tracks glucose levels, a worn insulin infusion pump that communicates with the sensor, and features new software that integrates the two systems. The artificial pancreas is purportedly revolutionary because of its closed-loop design, which means that the machine can give insulin without direct patient intervention. It can read a blood sugar and administer insulin based on an algorithm. But, the hardware for the corporate artificial pancreas is expensive and its software code is closed-access. Yet, well-educated, tech-savvy diabetics have been fashioning their own fully automated do-it-yourself (DIY) artificial pancreases for years, relying on small-scale manufacturing, open-source software, and inventive repurposing of corporate hardware. In this chapter, we trace the corporate and DIY artificial pancreases as they grapple with issues of design and accessibility in a content where not everyone can become a diabetic cyborg. The corporate artificial pancreas offers the cyborg low levels of agency and no ownership and control over his or her own data; it also requires access to health insurance in order to procure and use the technology. The DIY artificial pancreas offers patients a more robust of agency but also requires high levels of intellectual capital to hack the devices and make the system work safely. We argue that efforts to increase agency, radically democratize biotechnology, and expand information ownership in the DIY movement are characterized by ideologies and social inequalities that also define corporate pathways.
In this chapter, the author examines his embodied experience with Lyme disease to chart how power and knowledge within the dominant biomedical framework were produced via engagement with medical providers. Analyzing the medical governance of Lyme disease through actors’ everyday decision-making practices, the author shows how, in failing to accurately diagnose and treat his sick body and depriving him of treatment, credentialed health care providers reproduced culturally dominant, institutionalized, yet inadequate formations of medical power-knowledge. The author’s experience of this disease illustrates how the manufacture of disease categories and their ascription regulates bodies that do not fit into established categories. Analyzing data from his own life in light of medical science research, the author advances an analytical autoethnography and dissenting embodied knowledge, legitimizing the diagnostic category of chronic Lyme disease, and introducing two concepts—contested disease and contested care—to theorize the complex phenomenon of Lyme disease.
Kathleen M. Cumiskey
This chapter discusses the increasing role that mobiles are playing in meaning-making related to significant events in users’ lives. The focus of this chapter is on death and loss in relation to increasing ubiquity and ever-presence of mobile devices. The unique features of mobile communication can shift users’ views of death and culturally specific rituals related to grief and mourning. A review of the literature moves the role of mobiles in death beyond the use of social media platforms and online memorialization to include a focus on the devices themselves. When a death or loss occurs, specific capabilities and functions of mobile devices shape how users perceive and reflect upon shifts to their assumptive worlds.
Rose McDermott and Peter K. Hatemi
Genetic influences are often misinterpreted to mean that an individual with a particular genotype is inevitably predisposed to engage in a given behavior or that genetic influences operate outside of human agency and social context. This chapter undertakes a qualitative investigation of a genetically informed (MAOA) sample to illustrate the critical differences between population estimates and individual accountability. The sample includes those whose lives have revolved around violence (e.g., gang members) and those whose lives are committed to peace (e.g., Buddhist monks). It is found that genotype alone cannot predict any one individual’s social behaviors, and it is argued that any decisions or legal precedents targeted toward predicting how a specific individual may act based on his or her DNA sequence require a more nuanced appreciation of how social factors, genetic dispositions, and personal experience intertwine in the context of human agency.
Marion Blute and Fiona M. Jordan
There are three forms of modern Darwinian evolutionism in the social sciences and humanities: the gene-based biological, the social learning-based sociocultural, and gene–culture coevolution dealing with their interaction. This chapter focuses on cultural or sociocultural evolution. It begins with a discussion of the Darwinian-inspired evolutionary approach to history. It then outlines modern evolutionary phylogenetic methods borrowed from biology but now used extensively in the social sciences and humanities. The chapter provides examples of how language trees may be inferred; phylogenetic comparative methods that use language trees to answer questions about aspects of geographical, social, political, cultural, or economic organization; and phylogenetic investigations of material culture and traditions. It is concluded that culture does indeed “descend with modification.”
Treating women as helpless victims of social conventions or as neoliberal, postmodern subjects to understand “food femininities” obscures the fact that bodies are situated in social hierarchies. Social functions and roles tied to the female body bring about difference in eating and dieting practices. This chapter applies Bourdeusian analysis to the dieting and religious fasting practices of forty-eight women in the rapidly neoliberalizing city of Kolkata, India, to show how structurally rooted dispositions inform rules of engagement surrounding eating. Dieting and religious fasting, though simultaneously self-gratifying and strenuous, took on very different meanings depending on how they enabled women to seek recognition and meaning in their daily lives. The women who dieted projected their bodies onto the public sphere to secure the benefits that the new economic order could bestow, while familial fasts were an embodiment of the collective, material struggles less privileged women encountered on a daily basis.
A number of human traits that are predictive of socioeconomic success (e.g., intelligence, certain personality traits, and educational attainment) or reflective of success (e.g., occupational prestige and earnings) have been found to be substantially affected by individual genetic endowments; some outcomes, such as educational attainment, are also affected by the family environment, although usually to a lesser extent. The associations among status-related traits are themselves largely due to genetic causes. By reshuffling the genes of parents at each generation, sexual reproduction produces a regression of status-relevant traits of offspring toward the population mean—downward for high-status parents, upward for low-status parents—generating social mobility in an achievement-oriented society. Incorporating the quantitative genetic decomposition of trait variance into genetic, shared environmental, and nonshared environmental sources into the classic sociological model of status achievement allows for a better understanding and measurement of central social stratification concepts, such as opportunity and ascription.
This chapter examines the recent massive expansion of genetic research into human behavior. Based on decades of twin research, there were high expectations of strong genetic effects for almost all behavior. Further work on candidate genes from animal research proved initially exciting. Although that research continues, it now currently receives much less attention, in contrast to whole-genome examinations. This chapter provides insight into the whole-genome era of behavioral research and the extent to which it may or may not be a profitable endeavor. Sociologists are generally unaware of this body of research, but it will likely continue to grow. The methods, strengths, and limitations of genome-wide work are discussed. A discussion of the future of this area and the extent to which this provides any leverage for social research of human behavior concludes the chapter.
Health at Every Size (HAES™) as a Reform (Social) Movement within Public Health: A Situational Analysis
This article uses situational analysis to examine the history and current applications of Health at Every Size™ as a reform movement within public health, supported by fat political/social movements. Situational mapping highlights the vast and diverse worlds of public health broadly conceived, and how fat politics intersects with HAES. Drawing on personal and organizational accounts of how HAES emerged through pathways of existing fat political activism and health professional work, the author shows how HAES aligns closely with public health by centering health and is sometimes critiqued for ignoring fat acceptance. However, HAES generally uses a “both/and perspective”—both health and acceptance as key and inseparable pieces of HAES. HAES’s position as a reform movement within public health highlights tensions between a politics of reform and a politics of radical change within and between body activism movements.
Research on the formation of police officers generally focuses on the beliefs, accounts, and categories that recruits must master. Becoming a police officer, however, is not simply a matter of acquiring new attitudes and beliefs. This article attends to an unexplored side of police culture—the sensorial and tactile education that recruits undergo at the police academy. Rubenstein wrote in 1973 that a police officer’s first tool is his or her body. This article examines the formation of the police body by examining how police recruits learn to use their hands as instruments of control. In police vernacular, this means learning to “lay hands” (a term borrowed from Pentecostal traditions) or going “hands on.” This chapter focuses on two means of using the hands: searching and defensive tactics. It describes how instructors teach recruits to use their hands for touching, manipulating, and grabbing the clothing and flesh of others to sense weapons and contraband. It also examines how recruits are taught to grab, manipulate, twist, and strike others in order to gain control of “unruly” bodies. It concludes by discussing the implications of “touching like a cop” for understanding membership in the police force.
Breast cancer in American culture is intrinsically tied to normative ideologies of femininity. Within the highly visible public discourse about breast cancer, men with the disease (both transgender and cisgender) remain nearly invisible. The very presence of breast cancer in men is unthinkable precisely because its presence challenges the association of femininity with breasts. In this chapter I explore the ways that male breast cancer emerges in public discourse in order to explore the ways in normative expectations of masculinity emerge as a narrative framework for bringing trans and cis men into the breast cancer conversation as well as the ways that masculinity is deployed differentially in representing breast cancer in these two groups of men.
Jennifer A. Reich
Health risk is increasingly calculable, often with new ways to surveil the body, in hopes of enacting change that might treat, manage, or lower that identifiable risk. Nowhere is this more evident than in pregnancy management and childhood vaccination. This chapter examines how women encounter discourses of risk during pregnancy as well as when they consider childhood vaccination and make decisions for themselves and their children. Using two case examples from a larger qualitative study of perceptions of risk and vaccine refusal, this chapter shows how women’s decisions reflect the ways their pregnancy and parenting decisions are driven by perceptions of risk that are embodied, subjective, and contextual, and that reflect different social locations and processes of management.
This chapter outlines the development of the field of medical sociology in Latin America, showing its links to other fields (the medical field, the scientific-academic field, and the field of power). A controversy has arisen within the discipline regarding its object and includes the political agenda of social sciences in health and the relationship between social sciences, medicine, and public health. On the one hand, a relatively autonomous medical sociology has emerged, one nested in some universities and research centers, and thus remains foreign to the health sector. It is an endeavor that can reach a high level of theoretical, methodological, and critical development but has little impact on health policies. On the other hand, government public health institutions promote the development of a “domesticated” social science for instrumental purposes and without a significant critical potential. The exception to the rule is Brazil, where collective health has gained pre-eminence unparalleled in other countries of the region. The chapter concludes by describing how these “debates” are shaped by the stakeholders’ position in the field.
María del Carmen Castro Vásquez and Patricia Aranda Gallegos
This chapter maintains that it is possible to do empirical research that differentiates the two analytic dimensions of the “habitus” concept of Pierre Bourdieu and proposes a first approach to the analysis of this concept. The aim is to provide a way to operationalize the concept of habitus and show its relevance to understanding how women’s health decision making in health services occurs in Mexico. The sociological reflection is based on qualitative data from research projects of several years regarding the habitus of women when dealing with the problems of human papillomavirus (HPV) or cervical cancer, or when undergoing a Pap smear. The chapter postulates that differentiating these two dimensions not only confirms the practical usefulness of the concept of habitus, but it is also a way to show, in the discourse and practices of the agents, The most determined dimension, as well as the largest agency of its appreciations, dispositions and resources. In their analysis of empirical data, the authors uses other concepts such as field, capital, agency, strategy, autonomy, consent, and trajectories.
Alain B. Labrique, Dustin G. Gibson, Radha Rajan, and Lavanya Vasudevan
In this chapter, the authors explore the rapidly changing landscape of mobile health (mHealth) over the past decade. From a time of discordant innovation at the beginning of the global mobile phone “revolution” to one where national mHealth strategies are the norm, a number of key innovations and digital strategies have emerged as catalysts for clinical and public health service delivery. In 2019, the World Health Organization released the first-ever digital health guidelines, based on extensive systematic reviews, to help ministries of health and implementing agencies to make evidence-based investments in digital health. Several key mHealth approaches to health system strengthening have been identified across the various layers of complex health systems—from improving target population denominators to strengthening service quality and affordability. Across layers of patient, provider, and system interventions, examples of digital strategies will be used to illustrate the ways in which mHealth can be used to overcome persistent bottlenecks or cost drivers. Seminal frameworks and tools to describe, evaluate, and measure the maturity of digital health innovations will be introduced, with links to key resources. Finally, the importance of engagement is discussed as an emergent frontier of digital “adherence” to prescription-strength digital applications.
Kathryn H. Jacobsen
This chapter discusses the history of and responses to global epidemics of serious diseases. Case studies of cholera, influenza, and HIV/AIDS illustrate typical reactions to pandemic events. The initial stages of a pandemic are often characterized by collective anxiety and a desire for isolation. As the pandemic progresses, there are calls for collective global responses to protect human security and contain outbreaks while maintaining international trade and travel. As pandemics enter a recovery phase, there is often a shift toward the use of advocacy to promote international cooperation, secure continued funding for global health activities, and advance other strategic goals. The rhetoric of pandemics is now being used to describe obesity and other emerging noncommunicable diseases because the language of pandemics connotes risk and demands global action. Pandemics are the result of global interactions and globalization processes, and studies of pandemics are, by definition, global studies.
Face-to-face competition for rank in human status hierarchies is similar to “dominance competition” in other primate species, particularly the African apes. Each individual has signs or signals showing that it has or ought to have high or low status. Group members may accept these signs at face value, or one individual may challenge another for high rank. Among apes and humans, such dominance contests are usually nonviolent, often taking the form of an exchange of stressful signals. Eventually, one contestant withdraws or concedes the higher rank, thus lowering the stress level. Serious competition with important stakes is influenced by a physiological substrate of the hormones testosterone and cortisol and the enzyme α-amylase. Among humans, language is an important channel for exchanging dominant and deferent signals. Apart from the physiological substrate, instantaneous stress responses underlie status allocation. These mechanisms are illustrated with recent experimental results.
Feminist scholars have long argued for embodied reflexivity that involves accounting for how embodiment shapes qualitative field research as an intersubjective process. This chapter draws on ethnographic research with sixty-four low-income men of color who participated in a US government-funded fatherhood program conducted when the author was visibly pregnant with her first child. It analyzes pregnant embodiment as a strategy for facilitating rapport and credibility with socially dissimilar respondents and contributes to an epistemology of embodiment that attends to how researchers’ bodily states and experiences are sources of both data and analysis in field research. It concludes with insights generated from the project about how attention to embodiment is a valuable and illuminating reflexive space from which to better understand and empathize with respondents.
Ronald J. Angel
This article explores major themes related to the association among social factors that generate and maintain poverty and that determine health outcomes among different income groups. It first considers the social class factors that affect health and persistent socially based inequities in health before explaining the meaning and measurement of poverty. It then examines the effect of childhood poverty on adult outcomes, along with the phenomenon known as the “Hispanic paradox.” It also assesses the interrelationships among poverty, mental illness, and health care, the concept of “social capital,” the so-called “new morbidity,” and the health implications of health care reform for poor and minority Americans. Finally, it reflects on the potential role of nongovernmental and faith-based organizations in enhancing the health of disadvantaged individuals and communities.