Bodies at Risk: An Ethnography of Heart Disease

Article excerpt

Bodies at Risk: An Ethnography of Heart Disease Wheatley, E (2006) Ashgate, England; ISBN 0754643077; HB; xii + 136 pages; GBP 45.00

REVIEWER

ANGELA CUSHING

Honorary Research Advisor, School of Nursing

University of Queensland - Ipswich Campus

Ipswich QLD, Australia

Wheatley, a medical sociologist, offers a refreshing approach to heart disease research - the qualitative strategy of ethnography. Historically, cardiac investigations have stemmed mostly from a quantitative bio-medical paradigm, with heart disease separated from co-morbidities and a gender focus on men's experiences. Wheatley stipulates that the only selection criterion for the 20 participants in this study was the existence of a heart condition, and underpins the data analysis with the theoretical concepts of Giddens and Foucault.

Chapters 2 and 3 explicate the relevance of Giddens' notion of re-skilling in a risk culture following cardiac dysfunction. Illuminated is the interpretive effort by participants in analysing embodiment leading to a raised awareness of emotional and bodily limitations. Flow-on benefits for participants were an understanding of the inevitability of on-going social negotiations at the micro-political level of clinical practices of power and persuasion; and the ability to recognize what constitutes 'acceptable risk.'

Chapters 4, 5 and 6 extend Foucault's thesis of the 'clinical gaze', visibility, knowledge and power. Demonstrated is the transformation in the practice of surveillance medicine from a period when the focus was mainly on the ill person's body to that of today's practice where medicine's vision is panoptic - lifestyles and human health are also under observation. …

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