BioSocieties

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 440–466

BRCA patients in Cuba, Greece and Germany: Comparative perspectives on public health, the state and the partial reproduction of ‘neoliberal’ subjects

  • Sahra Gibbon
  • Eirini Kampriani
  • Andrea zur Nieden
Original Article

Abstract

The relationship among genetic technologies, biosocial identity and patient subjectivity has been the focus of an increasing range of social science literature. Examining mainly European and North American contexts this work has demonstrated the variable configurations of genetic knowledge-practices and the diverse implications for at-risk individuals and populations. This article brings together ethnographic research on genomic medicine, public health and breast cancer in Cuba, Greece and Germany. Although each case study addresses different publics/patients, institutional settings and risk-related practices, they all critically examine ‘neoliberal’ subjectivity and BRCA patienthood, at the intersection of political rationalities, medical discourses, social conditions and moral codes. In the Cuban case, cultural articulations of inherited and other embodied risks relating to breast cancer are analysed in relation to state provision of ‘community genetics’, and the shifting dynamics of public health in response to global social processes. The Greek case explores how culturally embedded values, notions of inherited risk and care inform or are re-articulated through institutional practices and ambivalent subject positions, at the meeting point between individualised medicine, religious philanthropy and the particularities of public health. In the German context, diverging patient subjectivities are examined against the background of prevailing social discourses and institutionalised risk management practices that promote proactive individuality. Drawing on deconstructive and feminist analyses, these case studies reveal how normative ‘neoliberal’ patient subjects are only ‘partially reproduced’ in situated contexts, neither stable nor homogeneous, as different actors and publics variously articulate, embrace or engage with transnational as well as culturally embedded discourses and health practices.

Keywords

BRCA patienthood neoliberal subjectivity Cuba Greece Germany 

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Copyright information

© The London School of Economics and Political Science 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sahra Gibbon
    • 1
  • Eirini Kampriani
    • 1
  • Andrea zur Nieden
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Institut für Geschichte der Medizin, Heinrich-Heine-Universität DüsseldorfDüsseldorfGermany

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