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Fighting for Safe Workplaces and Healthy Communities
What do unions and environmental groups have to gain by working together and how do they overcome their differences? In Blue-Green Coalitions, Brian Mayer answers these questions by focusing on the role that health-related issues have played in creating a common ground between the two groups. By recognizing that the same toxics that cause workplace hazards escape into surrounding communities and the environment, workers and environmentalists are able to collaborate for the protection of all.
Mayer examines three contemporary cases of successful labor-environmental alliances to demonstrate how health and safety issues are used to create durable and politically influential social movement coalitions:
•Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, a coalition of environmental, labor, community, and public health organizations in Massachusetts that has developed a successful prevention-based approach to safe workplaces and a clean environment;
•the Work Environment Council in New Jersey, which succeeded in passing the first statewide right-to-know law and concentrates on protecting citizens from the dangerous toxics generated by the state's chemical industries;
•the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, an organization that began in the 1980s fighting hazardous high-tech practices that were affecting the Valley residents and the high-tech industry's largely immigrant workforce.
In Mayer's ethnographic accounts of the challenging work of bringing these blue-green coalitions together, it becomes clear that stereotypes about environmentalists and workers are largely irrelevant when thinking about who is at risk of exposure to dangerous toxic substances. Both movements share a common concern for protecting their members' health from toxic hazards that are by-products of the modern industrial economy.
Faces of Shame
An American History of Intersex
What does it mean to be human? To be human is, in part, to be physically sexed and culturally gendered. Yet not all bodies are clearly male or female. Bodies in Doubt traces the changing definitions, perceptions, and medical management of intersex (atypical sex development) in America from the colonial period to the present day. From the beginning, intersex bodies have been marked as "other," as monstrous, sinister, threatening, inferior, and unfortunate. Some nineteenth-century doctors viewed their intersex patients with disrespect and suspicion. Later, doctors showed more empathy for their patients' plights and tried to make correct decisions regarding their care. Yet definitions of "correct" in matters of intersex were entangled with shifting ideas and tensions about what was natural and normal, indeed about what constituted personhood or humanity. Reis has examined hundreds of cases of “hermaphroditism” and intersex found in medical and popular literature and argues that medical practice cannot be understood outside of the broader cultural context in which it is embedded. As the history of responses to intersex bodies has shown, doctors are influenced by social concerns about marriage and heterosexuality. Bodies in Doubt considers how Americans have interpreted and handled ambiguous bodies, how the criteria and the authority for judging bodies changed, how both the binary gender ideal and the anxiety over uncertainty persisted, and how the process for defining the very norms of sex and gender evolved. Bodies in Doubt breaks new ground in examining the historical roots of modern attitudes about intersex in the United States and will interest scholars and researchers in disability studies, social history, gender studies, and the history of medicine.
Environmental Illness and the Struggle Over Medical Knowledge
Gulf War Syndrome: Is It a Real Disease? asks a recent headline in the New York Times. This questionare certain diseases real?lies at the heart of a simmering controversy in the United States, a debate that has raged, in different contexts, for centuries. In the early nineteenth century, the air of European cities, polluted by open sewers and industrial waste, was generally thought to be the source of infection and disease. Thus the term miasmaliterally deathlike aircame into popular use, only to be later dismissed as medically unsound by Louis Pasteur.
While controversy has long swirled in the United States around such illnesses as chronic fatigue syndrome and Epstein-Barr virus, no disorder has been more aggressively contested than environmental illness, a disease whose symptoms are distinguished by an extreme, debilitating reaction to a seemingly ordinary environment. The environmentally ill range from those who have adverse reactions to strong perfumes or colognes to others who are so sensitive to chemicals of any kind that they must retreat entirely from the modern world.
Bodies in Protest does not seek to answer the question of whether or not chemical sensitivity is physiological or psychological, rather, it reveals how ordinary people borrow the expert language of medicine to construct lay accounts of their misery. The environmentally ill are not only explaining their bodies to themselves, however, they are also influencing public policies and laws to accommodate the existence of these mysterious illnesses. They have created literally a new body that professional medicine refuses to acknowledge and one that is becoming a popular model for rethinking conventional boundaries between the safe and the dangerous.
Having interviewed dozens of the environmentally ill, the authors here recount how these people come to acknowledge and define their disease, and themselves, in a suddenly unlivable world that often stigmatizes them as psychologically unstable. Bodies in Protest is the dramatic story of human bodies that no longer behave in a manner modern medicine can predict and control.
The Medicalization of Reproduction in Greece
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.
The Matter of Maladies in Tanzania
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.
Propaganda, Hygiene, and the Revolutionary State
An Ethnography of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis
Are new reproductive and genetic technologies racing ahead of a society that is unable to establish limits to their use? Have the "new genetics" outpaced our ability to control their future applications? This book examines the case of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), the procedure used to prevent serious genetic disease by embryo selection, and the so-called "designer baby" method. Using detailed empirical evidence, the authors show that far from being a runaway technology, the regulation of PGD over the past fifteen years provides an example of precaution and restraint, as well as continual adaptation to changing social circumstances. Through interviews, media and policy analysis, and participant observation at two PGD centers in the United Kingdom, Born and Made provides an in-depth sociological examination of the competing moral obligations that define the experience of PGD.
Among the many novel findings of this pathbreaking ethnography of reproductive biomedicine is the prominence of uncertainty and ambivalence among PGD patients and professionals--a finding characteristic of the emerging "biosociety," in which scientific progress is inherently paradoxical and contradictory. In contrast to much of the speculative futurology that defines this field, Born and Made provides a timely and revealing case study of the on-the-ground decision-making that shapes technological assistance to human heredity.