Books

Health and Other Unassailable Values:

Reconfigurations of Health, Evidence and Ethics

Health and Other Unassailable Values sets out to examine health as a core cultural value. Taking ‘health’, ‘evidence’ and ‘ethics’ as her primary themes, Bell explores the edifice that underpins contemporary conceptions of health and the transformations in how we understand it, assess it and enact it. Although health, evidence and ethics have always been important values, she demonstrates that the grounds upon which they are grasped today are radically different from how they were formulated in the past.

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Divided into three parts, Part I focuses on the rise of epidemiology, Part II examines the emergence of evidence-based medicine, and Part III explores the broader ethical turn in health and medicine. Through an examination of core concepts including health behaviour, the randomised controlled trial, informed consent and human rights, Bell illustrates the ways in which certain entrenched ideas and assumptions about how human beings think and act recur across a variety of settings. An array of topical case studies, including cigarette packaging legislation, the incorporation of male circumcision as an HIV prevention tool, cancer screening technologies, and e-cigarettes, ground the arguments presented.

 

Written in a clear and engaging style, this volume will be of interest to a wide range of scholars and students, especially those in medical anthropology, medical sociology, and public health. Clear chapter delineations make the work easy to engage with at the individual chapter level as well as a whole.  Read the Introduction here.

Social and Cultural Perspectives on Health, Technology and Medicine:

Old Concepts, New Problems

Developments in health, science and technology have long provided fertile analytical ground for social science disciplines. This book focuses on the critical and enduring importance of core concepts in anthropology and sociology for interrogating and keeping pace with developments in the life sciences. The authors consider how transformations in medical and scientific knowledge serve to reanimate older controversies, giving new life to debates about relations between society, culture, knowledge and individuals. They reflect on the particular legacies and ongoing relevance of concepts such as ‘culture’, ‘society’, ‘magic’, ‘production’, ‘kinship’, ‘exchange’ and ‘the body’. The chapters draw on the work of key historical and contemporary figures across the social sciences and include a range of illustrative case studies to explore topics such as transplant medicine, genetic counselling, cancer therapy, reproductive health and addiction. Of particular interest to students and scholars of anthropology, sociology, and science and technology studies, this volume will also be a valuable resource for those working in the fields of health and medicine.  Read the first chapter here.

Alcohol, Tobacco and Obesity:

Morality, Mortality and the New Public Health

Although drinking, smoking and obesity have attracted social and moral condemnation to varying degrees for more than two hundred years, over the past few decades they have come under intense attack from the field of public health as an ‘unholy trinity’ of lifestyle behaviours with apparently devastating medical, social and economic consequences. Indeed, we appear to be in the midst of an important historical moment in which policies and practices that would have been unthinkable a decade ago (e.g., outdoor smoking bans, incarcerating pregnant women for drinking alcohol, and prohibiting restaurants from serving food to fat people), have become acceptable responses to the ‘risks’ that alcohol, tobacco and obesity are perceived to pose.

 

Hailing from Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the USA, and drawing on examples from all four countries, contributors interrogate the ways in which alcohol, tobacco and fat have come to be constructed as ‘problems’ requiring intervention and expose the social, cultural and political roots of the current public health obsession with lifestyle.

 

No prior collection has set out to provide an in-depth examination of alcohol, tobacco and obesity through the comparative approach taken in this volume. This book therefore represents an invaluable and timely contribution to critical studies of public health, health inequities, health policy, and the sociology of risk more broadly.