Technoscience, Health, and Illness in the U.S.


Book Pages: 512 Illustrations: 21 photographs, 3 tables, 4 figures Published: August 2010

Medicine and Health, Science and Technology Studies, Sociology

The rise of Western scientific medicine fully established the medical sector of the U.S. political economy by the end of the Second World War, the first “social transformation of American medicine.” Then, in an ongoing process called medicalization, the jurisdiction of medicine began expanding, redefining certain areas once deemed moral, social, or legal problems (such as alcoholism, drug addiction, and obesity) as medical problems. The editors of this important collection argue that since the mid-1980s, dramatic, and especially technoscientific, changes in the constitution, organization, and practices of contemporary biomedicine have coalesced into biomedicalization, the second major transformation of American medicine. This volume offers in-depth analyses and case studies along with the groundbreaking essay in which the editors first elaborated their theory of biomedicalization.

Contributors. Natalie Boero, Adele E. Clarke, Jennifer R. Fishman, Jennifer Ruth Fosket, Kelly Joyce, Jonathan Kahn, Laura Mamo, Jackie Orr, Elianne Riska, Janet K. Shim, Sara Shostak


“The annunciative tone of Biomedicalization is for the, most part explanatory rather than ‘promissory.’ This anthology…provides meticulous ethnographic and sociological case studies of extant (though evolving) biopolitical practices and communities.” — Mara Mills, Women's Studies Quarterly

“. . . There is much to be gained from this volume. For academics and researchers entering the area, the volume serves as a useful introduction to biomedicalisation’s diverse expressions and implications. And because the arguments presented are sophisticated and the cases richly documented, the volume will be an important resource for those already engaged with social theory and biomedicine.” — Mark Davis, Culture, Health & Sexuality

Biomedicalization comprehensively articulates the 21st century technoscientific turn in American medicine and brings key concepts in medical sociology to bear on health and medicine as well as science, technology, sexuality, race, gender and the body. I highly recommend it for scholars in these areas.” — Gayle A. Sulik, Sociology of Health & Illness

“In tracing the changing contours of biomedicine, this volume charts new connections between biopower, biopolitics, and biocapital, and it documents the emergence of new conditions, diagnostics, and treatments. This book will be most useful for scholars of medicine, health, the body, science, and technology. The theoretical framework is both systematic and clearly articulated, and it should prove provocative for those doing research in these areas. While some of the empirical case studies are more in conversation with the conceptual apparatus of biomedicalization than others, several are quite engaging and would make nice additions to undergraduate and graduate courses in these areas.” — Rene Almeling, American Journal of Sociology

“The anthology . . . offers, from my point of view, a fundamental contribution and an innovative theoretical framework for understanding not only the relation between medicine and society, but also the study of the technoscientific practices tout court.” — Stefano Crabu, Tecnoscienza

“This is an important book for historians. . . . [I]ts importance lies with extending the scholarship that has now coalesced around the belief that we have entered a new epochal order in which the epistemic grounds for life itself have changed. . . . [A] timely, informative, engaging, and above all, heuristic achievement. It may be that we are still too much in the forest of the new epochal order to see the trees, but Biomedicalization provides a significant empirical and theoretical clearing.” — Roger Cooter, Medical History

“At a time when biocapital, biopower, biotechnology, and biomedicine are more entangled than ever, this volume offers both rich theoretical and case-study grounding. The little preface ‘bio-’ seems to be about a kind of world-making equation for Bio[X] raised to the nth power, where citizens of the United States, at least, find themselves with the obligation of health without the right to health, and with the technical means to extraordinary prowess in relation to the biomedical body without the financial means for many to pay for much humbler organic well being. This packed volume pulls astutely on the threads of many bio-knots to track questions of health and medicine in economic, cultural, and epistemological weaves. These essays are crucial for thinking about how difference and health—and differences in health—in the U.S. do and do not prepare one to travel responsibly transnationally.” — Donna J. Haraway, author of When Species Meet

“In this excellent book, Adele E. Clarke and her colleagues have meticulously mapped out the multiple dimensions of the phenomenon that they term ‘biomedicalization,’ tracing the links between such apparently distinct phenomena as the increasing use of pharmaceutical drugs for prevention and enhancement, the new biomedical focus on risk and risk prevention, the commodification of medicine, the growing global bioeconomy, and the increased salience of the active and responsible patient. In demonstrating the socio-political, technical and epistemic interconnections between these developments, and through case studies of issues from reproduction to psychiatry, and from body imaging to biomarkers, this book makes a fundamental contribution to our understanding of the contemporary technoscientific transformation of American medicine—one that will inform and inspire future research.” — Nikolas Rose, Martin White Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics and Political Science

“These captivating essays bring the study of health and medicine to a new level by firmly linking medical sociology to the latest work on science, technology, gender, sexuality, race, and the body. Across the wide range of diseases and issues taken up in this volume, biomedicine emerges as a crucial domain where identities and differences are generated, inequalities are challenged or reinforced, risks and rewards are juxtaposed, and dreams of human perfectibility are constantly dangled before us.” — Steven Epstein, author of Inclusion: The Politics of Difference in Medical Research


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Adele E. Clarke is Professor of Sociology and History of Health Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.

Laura Mamo is Associate Professor at the Health Equity Institute for Research, Practice, and Policy at San Francisco State University.

Jennifer Ruth Fosket is a principal and founder of Social Green, where she does research and writes on the intersections of health, the built environment, and sustainability.

ennifer R. Fishman is Assistant Professor in the Social Studies of Medicine Department at McGill University.

Janet K. Shim is Assistant Professor of Sociology in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface vii

Acknowledgments xi

Biomedicalization: A Theoretical and Substantive Introduction / Adele E. Clarke, Janet K. Shim, Laura Mamo, Jennifer Ruth Fosket, and Jennifer R. Fishman 1

Part I. Theoretical and Historical Framings

1. Biomedicalization: Technoscientific Transformations of Health, Illness, and U.S. Biomedicine / Adele E. Clarke, Janet K. Shim, Laura Mamo, Jennifer Ruth Fosket, and Jennifer R. Fishman 47

2. Charting (Bio)medicine and (Bio)medicalization in the United States, 1980–present / Adele E. Clarke, Jennifer Ruth Fosket, Laura Mamo, Jennifer R. Fishman, and Janet K. Shim 88

3. From the Rise of Medicine to Biomedicalization: U.S. Healthscapes and Iconography, circa 1890—Present / Adele E. Clarke 104

4. Gender and Medicalization and Biomedicalization Theories / Elianne Riska 147

Part II. Case Studies: Focus on Difference

5. Fertility, Inc.: Consumption and Subjectification in U.S. Lesbian Reproductive Practices / Laura Mamo 173

6. The Body as Image: An Examination of the Economic and Political Dynamics of Magnetic Resonance Imaging and the Construction of Difference / Kelly Joyce 197

7. The Stratified Biomedicalization of Heart Disease: Expert and Lay Perspectives on Racial and Class Inequality / Janet K. Shim 218

8. Marking Populations and Persons at Risk: Molecular Epidemiology and Environmental Health / Sara Shostak 242

9. Surrogate Markers and Surrogate Marketing in Biomedicine: The Regulatory Etiology and Commercial Progression of "Ethnic" Drug Development / Jonathan Kahn 263

Part III. Focus on Enhancement

10. The Making of Viagra: The Biomedicalization of Sexual Dysfunction / Jennifer R. Fishman 289

11. Bypassing Blame: Bariatric Surgery and the Case of Biomedical Failure / Natalie Boero 307

12. Breast Cancer Risk as Disease: Biomedicalizing Risk / Jennifer Ruth Fosket 331

13. Biopsychiatry and the Informatics of Diasnosis: Governing Mentalities / Jackie Orr 353

Epilogue: Thoughts on Biomedicalization in Its Traditional Travels / Adele E. Clarke 380

References 407

About the Contributors 485

Index 487
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4570-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4553-4
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