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Bodies of Knowledge Cover

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Bodies of Knowledge

The Medicalization of Reproduction in Greece

Eugenia Georges

The author, a second-generation Greek American, returned to Greece with her young daughter to do fieldwork over the course of a decade. Focusing on Rhodes, an island that blends continuity with the past and rapid social change in often unexpected ways, she interviewed over a hundred women, doctors, and midwives about issues of reproduction. The result is a detailed portrait of how a longstanding system of “local” gynecological and obstetrical knowledge under the control of women was rapidly displaced in the period following World War II, and how the technologically-intensive biomedical model that took its place in turn assumed its own distinctive signature. Bodies of Knowledge is a vivid ethnographic study of how a presumably globalizing and homogenizing process like medicalization can be reshaped as women and medical experts alike selectively accept or reject new practices and technologies. Georges found, for example, that women in Rhodes have enthusiastically embraced some new technologies, like fetal imaging during pregnancy, but rejected others, like medical contraception. They are also avid consumers of popular childbirth manuals. This book is the recipient of the 2006 Norman L. and Roselea J. Goldberg Prize for the best project in the area of medicine.

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Bodies, Politics, and African Healing

The Matter of Maladies in Tanzania

Stacey A. Langwick

This subtle and powerful ethnography examines African healing and its relationship to medical science. Stacey A. Langwick investigates the practices of healers in Tanzania who confront the most intractable illnesses in the region, including AIDS and malaria. She reveals how healers generate new therapies and shape the bodies of their patients as they address devils and parasites, anti-witchcraft medicine, and child immunization. Transcending the dualisms between tradition and science, culture and nature, belief and knowledge, Langwick tells a new story about the materiality of healing and postcolonial politics. This important work bridges postcolonial theory, science, public health, and anthropology.

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Body Soviet

Propaganda, Hygiene, and the Revolutionary State

Tricia Starks

In 1918 the People’s Commissariat of Public Health began a quest to protect the health of all Soviet citizens, but health became more than a political platform or a tactical decision. The Soviets defined and categorized the world by interpreting political orthodoxy and citizenship in terms of hygiene. The assumed political, social, and cultural benefits of a regulated, healthy lifestyle informed the construction of Soviet institutions and identity. Cleanliness developed into a political statement that extended from domestic maintenance to leisure choices and revealed gender, ethnic, and class prejudices. Dirt denoted the past and poor politics; health and cleanliness signified mental acuity, political orthodoxy, and modernity.
            Health, though essential to the revolutionary vision and crucial to Soviet plans for utopia, has been neglected by traditional histories caught up in Cold War debates. The Body Soviet recovers this significant aspect of Soviet thought by providing a cross-disciplinary, comparative history of Soviet health programs that draws upon rich sources of health care propaganda, including posters, plays, museum displays, films, and mock trials. The analysis of propaganda makes The Body Soviet more than an institutional history; it is also an insightful critique of the ideologies of the body fabricated by health organizations.

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Border Junkies

Addiction and Survival on the Streets of Juárez and El Paso

By Scott Comar

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Boundaries of Touch

Parenting and Adult-Child Intimacy

Jean O'Malley Halley

Discussing issues of parent-child contact ranging from breastfeeding and sleeping arrangements to sexual abuse, Jean O'Malley Halley traces the evolution of mainstream ideas about touching between adults and children over the course of the twentieth century in the United States. Boundaries of Touch shows how arguments about adult-child touch have been politicized, simplified, and bifurcated into "naturalist" and "behaviorist" viewpoints, thereby sharpening certain binary constructions such as mind/body and male/female. In addition to contemporary periodicals and self-help books on child rearing, Halley uses information gathered from interviews she conducted with mothers ranging in age from twenty-eight to seventy-three. Throughout, she reveals how the parent-child relationship, far from being a private or benign subject, continues as a highly contested, politicized affair of keen public interest.

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Breast or Bottle?

Contemporary Controversies in Infant-Feeding Policy and Practice

Amy Koerber

Breast or Bottle? is the first scholarly examination of the shift in breastfeeding recommendations occurring over the last half century. Through a close analysis of scientific and medical controversies and a critical examination of the ways in which medical beliefs are communicated to the public, Amy Koerber exposes layers of shifting arguments and meaning that inform contemporary infant-feeding advocacy and policy. Whereas the phrase "breast or bottle" might once have implied a choice between two relative equals, human milk is now believed to possess unique health-promoting qualities. Although it is tempting to view this revision in medical thinking as solely the result of scientific progress, Koerber argues that a progress-based interpretation is incomplete. Epidemiologic evidence demonstrating the health benefits of human milk has grown in recent years, but the story of why these forms of evidence have dramatically increased in recent decades, Koerber reveals, is a tale of the dedicated individuals, coalitions, and organizations engaged in relentless rhetorical efforts to improve our scientific explanations and cultural appreciation of human milk, lactation, and breastfeeding in the context of a historical tendency to devalue these distinctly female aspects of the human body. Koerber demonstrates that the rhetoric used to promote breastfeeding at a given time and cultural moment not only reflects a preexisting reality but also shapes the infant-feeding experience for new mothers. Koerber's claims are grounded in extensive rhetorical research including textual analysis, archival research, and interviews with key stakeholders in the breastfeeding controversy. Her approach offers a vital counterpoint to other feminist analyses of the shift toward probreastfeeding scientific discourse and presents a revealing rhetorical case study in the complex relationship between scientific data and its impact on medical policy and practices. The resulting interdisciplinary study will be of keen interest to scholars and students of rhetoric, communication, women's studies, medical humanities, and public health as well as medical practitioners and policymakers.

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Breeding Contempt

The History of Coerced Sterilization in the United States

Mark A. Largent

Most closely associated today with the Nazis and World War II atrocities, eugenics is sometimes described as a government-orchestrated breeding program, other times as a pseudo-science, and often as the first step leading to genocide. Less frequently is it depicted as a movement having links to the United States. But eugenics does have a history in this country, and Mark Largent tells that story by exploring one of the most disturbing aspects, the compulsory asterilization of more than 64,000 Americans.

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Broadcasting Birth Control

Mass Media and Family Planning

Manon Parry

Traditionally, the history of the birth control movement has been told through the accounts of the leaders, organizations, and legislation that shaped the campaign. Recently, historians have begun examining the cultural work of printed media, including newspapers, magazines, and even novels in fostering support for the cause. Broadcasting Birth Control builds on this new scholarship to explore the films and radio and television broadcasts developed by twentieth-century birth control advocates to promote family planning at home in the United States, and in the expanding international arena of population control.

Mass media, Manon Parry contends, was critical to the birth control movement’s attempts to build support and later to publicize the idea of fertility control and the availability of contraceptive services in the United States and around the world. Though these public efforts in advertising and education were undertaken initially by leading advocates, including Margaret Sanger, increasingly a growing class of public communications experts took on the role, mimicking the efforts of commercial advertisers to promote health and contraception in short plays, cartoons, films, and soap operas. In this way, they made a private subject—fertility control—appropriate for public discussion.

Parry examines these trends to shed light on the contested nature of the motivations of birth control advocates. Acknowledging that supporters of contraception were not always motivated by the best interests of individual women, Parry concludes that family planning advocates were nonetheless convinced of women’s desire for contraception and highly aware of the ethical issues involved in the use of the media to inform and persuade.

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Broken Hearts

The Tangled History of Cardiac Care

David S. Jones

Still the leading cause of death worldwide, heart disease challenges researchers, clinicians, and patients alike. Each day, thousands of patients and their doctors make decisions about coronary angioplasty and bypass surgery. In Broken Hearts David S. Jones sheds light on the nature and quality of those decisions. He describes the debates over what causes heart attacks and the efforts to understand such unforeseen complications of cardiac surgery as depression, mental fog, and stroke. Why do doctors and patients overestimate the effectiveness and underestimate the dangers of medical interventions, especially when doing so may lead to the overuse of medical therapies? To answer this question, Jones explores the history of cardiology and cardiac surgery in the United States and probes the ambiguities and inconsistencies in medical decision making. Based on extensive reviews of medical literature and archives, this historical perspective on medical decision making and risk highlights personal, professional, and community outcomes.

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Building a New Biocultural Synthesis

Political-Economic Perspectives on Human Biology

Alan H. Goodman and Thomas L. Leatherman, Editors

Anthropology, with its dual emphasis on biology and culture, is--or should be--the discipline most suited to the study of the complex interactions between these aspects of our lives. Unfortunately, since the early decades of this century, biological and cultural anthropology have grown distinct, and a holistic vision of anthropology has suffered. This book brings culture and biology back together in new and refreshing ways. Directly addressing earlier criticisms of biological anthropology, Building a New Biocultural Synthesis concerns how culture and political economy affect human biology--e.g., people's nutritional status, the spread of disease, exposure to pollution--and how biological consequences might then have further effects on cultural, social, and economic systems. Contributors to the volume offer case studies on health, nutrition, and violence among prehistoric and historical peoples in the Americas; theoretical chapters on nonracial approaches to human variation and the development of critical, humanistic and political ecological approaches in biocultural anthropology; and explorations of biological conditions in contemporary societies in relationship to global changes. Building a New Biocultural Synthesis will sharpen and enrich the relevance of anthropology for understanding a wide variety of struggles to cope with and combat persistent human suffering. It should appeal to all anthropologists and be of interest to sister disciplines such as nutrition and sociology. Alan H. Goodman is Professor of Anthropology, Hampshire College. Thomas L. Leatherman is Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of South Carolina.

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