Divided Bodies

Lyme Disease, Contested Illness, and Evidence-Based Medicine

Divided Bodies

Critical Global Health: Evidence, Efficacy, Ethnography

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Book Pages: 360 Illustrations: Published: September 2020

Anthropology > Medical Anthropology, Medicine and Health, Science and Technology Studies > Feminist Science Studies

While many doctors claim that Lyme disease—a tick-borne bacterial infection—is easily diagnosed and treated, other doctors and the patients they care for argue that it can persist beyond standard antibiotic treatment in the form of chronic Lyme disease. In Divided Bodies, Abigail A. Dumes offers an ethnographic exploration of the Lyme disease controversy that sheds light on the relationship between contested illness and evidence-based medicine in the United States. Drawing on fieldwork among Lyme patients, doctors, and scientists, Dumes formulates the notion of divided bodies: she argues that contested illnesses are disorders characterized by the division of bodies of thought in which the patient's experience is often in conflict with how it is perceived. Dumes also shows how evidence-based medicine has paradoxically amplified differences in practice and opinion by providing a platform of legitimacy on which interested parties—patients, doctors, scientists, politicians—can make claims to medical truth.


“This exceptional book takes readers into the heart of an important medical controversy about the very nature of Lyme disease. Sensitively portraying the struggles of Lyme sufferers, as well as the divided opinions of the clinicians who care for them, this book demonstrates how evidence-based medicine may not reflect the social complexities of a deeply contested illness. A must-read for scholars of American health and medicine and for anyone interested in the growing Lyme disease epidemic.” — Marcia C. Inhorn, Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs, Yale University

“The controversy over the existence and meaning of chronic Lyme disease is one of the most fascinating stories in contemporary medicine. In Divided Bodies, Abigail A. Dumes explores with penetration and subtlety this epistemic border on which patients and physicians wage an intense battle to impose their truth.” — Didier Fassin, Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study and Chair of Public Health at the Collège de France

“Abigail A. Dumes persuasively makes the case that ‘Lyme disease is one of the nation's most controversial medical issues,’ leading readers to care about it and about the people who are deeply invested in both sides of the debate. Divided Bodies is exceptionally well written and informed by incredibly rigorous research.” — Alissa Cordner, author of Toxic Safety: Flame Retardants, Chemical Controversies, and Environmental Health


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Abigail A. Dumes is Assistant Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Michigan.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction: Lyme Disease Outside In  1
1. Mapping the Lyme Disease Controversy  27
2. Preventing Lyme  65
3. Living Lyme  99
4. Diagnosing and Treating Lyme  158
5. Lyme Disease, Evidence-Based Medicine, and the Biopolitics of Truthmaking  187
Conclusion: Through Lyme's Looking Glass  222
Notes  235
Glossary  271
References  273
Index  327
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0666-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0598-8