The social origins and expressions of illness

The social origins and expressions of illness,Merrill Singer

The social origins and expressions of illness   (Citations: 5)
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This chapter draws on British medical anthropologist Ronald Frankenburg's notion of the 'making social of disease', and his related concepts 'the making of disease' and 'the making individual of disease', to review the biomedical conception of disease from the perspective of medical anthropology. As opposed to the tendency of biomedicine to treat disease as a category in nature, a finite and objective reality discoverable through scientific endeavour, medical anthropology seeks to demonstrate the social origins of both the biomedical conception of disease and the expression of the sicknesses labelled diseases by doctors. The social origins and expressions of illness One of the tenacious assumptions of biomedicine is that disease can be conceptualized as a discrete entity1. Each of the identified health conditions listed in the accepted compendium of recognized diseases, known as the International Classification of Diseases (ICD)2, be it AIDS or autism, and every specific case of disease expression in an individual patient, is understood in biomedicine as an objective, clinically identifiable part of material reality, a thing-in-itself. Even if disease is outside of patient awareness and consequently the patient suffers from no experiential symptoms (e.g. hypertension or diabetes), the physical existence of the disease as an isolatable part of nature is accepted. Consequently, in normal, day-to-day practice, whether it involves examination and diag- nosis, patient care and treatment, or clinical research, biomedicine is guided by a confident conceptualization of diseases as distinct, discrete and disjunctive entities that exist within individual human (or other) bodies. Diseases, in short, have in biomedicine an "aura of factuality"3. Thus, based on many years of work in medical settings, Good (p. 70)4 comments that he has been struck again and again by "the enormous power of the idea within medicine that disease is fundamentally, even exclusively, biological." Further, diseases have an existence that is seen as separate from the social groups and social contexts in which they are
Published in 2004.
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