Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us

Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us

S. Lochlann Jain

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 0520276574

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Nearly half of all Americans will be diagnosed with an invasive cancer—an all-too ordinary aspect of daily life. Through a powerful combination of cultural analysis and memoir, this stunningly original book explores why cancer remains so confounding, despite the billions of dollars spent in the search for a cure. Amidst furious debates over its causes and treatments, scientists generate reams of data—information that ultimately obscures as much as it clarifies. Award-winning anthropologist S. Lochlann Jain deftly unscrambles the high stakes of the resulting confusion. Expertly reading across a range of material that includes history, oncology, law, economics, and literature, Jain explains how a national culture that simultaneously aims to deny, profit from, and cure cancer entraps us in a state of paradox—one that makes the world of cancer virtually impossible to navigate for doctors, patients, caretakers, and policy makers alike. This chronicle, burning with urgency and substance leavened with brio and wit, offers a lucid guide to understanding and navigating the quicksand of uncertainty at the heart of cancer. Malignant vitally shifts the terms of an epic battle we have been losing for decades: the war on cancer.

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Science 32 (2002): 659–90; and Adriana Petryna, When Experiments Travel: Clinical Trials and the Global Search for Human Subjects (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009). Others focus on the ethics of the trials and the treatment of subjects, and a burgeoning literature addresses the on-the-ground efficacy of trials in terms of the slippages between theory and practice, the value of different statistical models, and the politics of pharmaceutical funding. See Joseph Dumit, Drugs for Life:

146–148, 232n12, 262n40 ovarian stimulation studies, 138–140, 146–149 Pacific Fertility Center, 134–135, 135, 138 pain and suffering: ideology of, 218, 244n24; invisibility of, 121; measurement of, 121; speaking about, 218, 219; unnecessary, 217 pancreatic cancer, 8, 28, 38, 153, 266n4 Papanicolaou, George 154, 266n7 pap smear, 22, 154 parabens, in cosmetics, 207 Parsons, Talcott, 236n7 pathology reports, 2, 3 patient/physician relationship: and communication/redirection, 183;

sick, I’m happy and miserable at the same time: Pleased to be waking up at all. Blissed out to have landed on the vitality side of that prognosis. Repentent about my good cheer as my mind wanders to the three people from my support group currently dying. It’s not quite that one’s own survivorship is contingent on others’ deaths. But the contemporary cancer discourse of survival against the odds seems to veer too far in the other direction, neglecting those in the category whose deaths have built

archetype, the ad would uneasily tangle with the “who cares?” question, since the state doesn’t generally care about any individual’s health. Such is the premise of the private insurance system and the reason that some forty-five million Americans remain uninsured, with sixty million more underinsured. Even given recent legislation that may change this for the moment, to ask the state to care for any particular individual using a market logic can’t work. Not only does the pre- and postcancer

woman.”4 Moving between self-elegy and elegy of her friend Michael Lynch, a gay man living with HIV/AIDS, Sedgwick examines diagnosis and gender in her article “White Glasses.” She details her cross-country search for a pair of spectacles. She wanted those very glasses that Michael wore as a flaming signifier, to augment her own self-identification as a gay man. But on finally finding them, she realized with dismay that on a woman “the pastel sinks . . . invisibly into the camouflage of

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