Medicating Race

Heart Disease and Durable Preoccupations with Difference

Medicating Race

Experimental Futures

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Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 5 illustrations Published: October 2012

Author: Anne Pollock

Medicine and Health > Medical Humanities, Science and Technology Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

In Medicating Race, Anne Pollock traces the intersecting discourses of race, pharmaceuticals, and heart disease in the United States over the past century, from the founding of cardiology through the FDA's approval of BiDil, the first drug sanctioned for use in a specific race. She examines wide-ranging aspects of the dynamic interplay of race and heart disease: articulations, among the founders of American cardiology, of heart disease as a modern, and therefore white, illness; constructions of "normal" populations in epidemiological research, including the influential Framingham Heart Study; debates about the distinctiveness African American hypertension, which turn on disparate yet intersecting arguments about genetic legacies of slavery and the comparative efficacy of generic drugs; and physician advocacy for the urgent needs of black patients on professional, scientific, and social justice grounds. Ultimately, Pollock insists that those grappling with the meaning of racialized medical technologies must consider not only the troubled history of race and biomedicine but also its fraught yet vital present. Medical treatment should be seen as a site of, rather than an alternative to, political and social contestation. The aim of scholarly analysis should not be to settle matters of race and genetics, but to hold medicine more broadly accountable to truth and justice.


“Both provocative and important for the study of race and/in medicine. . . . Pollock’s book serves well in highlighting the importance of considering the entirety of the social world (including the biomedical) with the same political and moral concerns borne by more traditional social theory.” — Colin Halverson, Somatosphere

“This book is masterfully performative and empirically rich, offering insight to scholars of race, feminist science and technology studies, medical anthropology and sociology.” — Alexandra A. Choby, Sociology of Health & Illness

“[Pollock] offers a richer contextualization of the way race figures in medicine that positions medical science not as an exclusive or absolute authority, but one among many forms of ordering and reasoning about the simultaneously social and technical world we inhabit. ..  Pollock above all makes clear how different forms of knowledge, belief and reasoning are woven through the forms of collective organization and stratification sociology seeks to understand.” — Erik Aarden, Sociology

“This is a thought-provoking work, highlighting the social forces evident in the ‘plural noninnocent discourses’ regarding race and medicine.” — J.D. Campbell, Choice

“One of Pollock’s strengths is her insistence that medicine should be understood as both science and therapeutic practice, and thus as a contested and heterogeneous field that ‘not only arbitrates but also intervenes on difference.’  This enables her to develop a more sophisticated and sympathetic account of the motives and contribution of the African American politicians, activists, and doctors who championed the cause of black heart disease.” — David Skinner, New Genetics and Society

“Pollock provides insights for scholars interested in the mechanisms by which ‘race’structures medical practice, scientific knowledge development and pharmaceutical capital in the USA. She develops a compelling historical account of the varied meanings and significance of ‘race’ in the longer development of medical knowledge and practices constitutive of heart disease and, by extension, the wider field of American medicine.” — James T. Roanea, Global Public Health

"Medicating Race charts a new course in critical race studies in biomedicine, one that takes seriously the vital importance of healing, the 'durable preoccupation' with race, and the somatic toll of racism. Anne Pollock asks us to revisit some of our most cherished assumptions about race and biomedicine in this theoretically informed and usefully provocative exploration of the social meanings of heart disease." — Alondra Nelson, author of Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination

"Based on exceptionally thorough scholarship and full of thought-provoking ideas, Medicating Race addresses one of the most perplexing and contentious topics in biomedical research and medical practice during the past century: race and its implications for health, disease, and treatment. Anne Pollock is trained in science and technology studies and is sensitive to the complexities of knowledge, politics, markets, and social categories. In this original study, she reveals how the modern history of heart disease is intertwined not only with the emergence and growth of the field of cardiology but also with civil rights struggles, pharmaceutical drug development and marketing, and changing notions of the biological and social meanings of race." — Steven Epstein, author of Inclusion: The Politics of Difference in Medical Research


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Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Anne Pollock is an Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Georgia Tech.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

1. Racial Preoccupations and Early Cardiology 28

2. Making Normal Populations and Making Difference in the Framingham and Jackson Heart Studies 52

3. The Durability of African American Hypertension as a Disease Category 83

4. The Slavery Hypothesis beyond Genetic Determinism 107

5. Thiazide Diuretics at a Nexus of Associations: Racialized, Proven, Old, Cheap 131

6. BiDil: Medicating the Intersection of Race and Heart Failure 155

Conclusion 180

Notes 197

Works Cited 225

Index 253
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5344-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5329-4
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