Gender, Health, and Healing: The Public/Private Divide

Gender, Health, and Healing: The Public/Private Divide

Gender, Health, and Healing: The Public/Private Divide

Gender, Health, and Healing: The Public/Private Divide


What do we mean by gender? How does this relate to health? These are some of the topics explored in this text which offers an assessment of gender relations and embodied practices across the public/private divide.


Gillian Bendelow, Mick Carpenter, Caroline Vautier and Simon Williams

This volume arose from a festschrift held to celebrate the life and work of Meg Stacey that was organised by the Centre for Research in Health, Medicine and Society at Warwick, of which Meg is a founder member, and which has evolved in the university where she taught for many years and has continued working as emerita professor. The conference was held in April 1999, was hugely successful, and many of those who took part - including ourselves - will remember it for years to come as a remarkable event that was intellectually challenging, convivial and comradely.

Some of the spirit of that conference, we hope, permeates the book itself, although this is not just an attempt to reproduce it in the cold light of print. That would be impossible; and in any case we decided from the outset not to produce the kind of 'presentation tome' that primarily celebrates and reminisces about a person. Rather, what we seek to do is represent the vital tradition of analysis that Meg's work represents as one of the animating forces of contemporary sociology and social policy. In a world which seems in head-long rush down 'modernising' freeways of all kinds, the notion of 'tradition' might be seen as cautious, unreflective and conservative, to be discarded in favour of 'the new' and the speedier. However, what we mean by tradition is not unreflective acceptance, but a sense of critical continuity. It can be argued that what has characterised all types of sociological theorising since its emergence as an intellectual creation of nineteenth-century European social formations has been an ambivalence towards 'the modern' without which it could not have entered the world (Bauman 1997). This complex parent-child relationship is still working itself out in contemporary analysis, because profound changes continue to take place, the solid is still 'melting into the air' and the aim of social analysis (the only ultimate justification, surely, for devoting so much of society's surplus resources to it) is to help us to understand so that we can choose rather than simply be swept along or even trampled underfoot by social change.

The theme of this book, like the conference from which it originated, and on which all authors were asked to 'reflect', was the public/private divide in relation to gender, health and healing. The purpose of this title was to focus contributors' attention on the dichotomy between the two spheres that

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