Cancer and the Politics of Care

Inequalities and interventions
in global perspective

Edited by
Linda Rae Bennett,
Lenore Manderson,
and Belinda Spagnoletti

Embodying Inequalities: Perspectives from Medical Anthropology

The Book

This timely volume responds to the epic impacts of cancer as a global phenomenon. Through the fine-grained lens of ethnography, the contributors present new thinking on how social, economic, race, gender and other structural inequalities intersect, compound and complicate health inequalities. Cancer experiences and impacts are explored across eleven countries: Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, France, Greece, India, Indonesia, Italy, Senegal, the United Kingdom and the United States. The volume engages with specific cancers from the point of primary prevention, to screening, diagnosis, treatment (or its absence), and end-of-life care.

Cancer and the Politics of Care traverses new theoretical terrain through explicitly critiquing cancer interventions, their limitations and success, the politics that drive them, and their embeddedness in local cultures and value systems. It extends prior work on cancer, by incorporating the perspectives of patients and their families, ‘at risk’ groups and communities, health professionals, cancer advocates and educators, and patient navigators.

The volume advances cross-cultural understandings of care, resisting simple dichotomies between caregiving and receiving, and reveals the fraught ethics of care that must be negotiated in resources poor settings and stratified health systems. Its diversity and innovation ensures its wide utility among those working in and studying medical anthropology, social anthropology and other fields at the intersections of social science, medicine and health equity.


1 Introduction: Cancer ethnographies and the politics of care
Linda Rae Bennett and Lenore Manderson

 2 Biomedical innovations, cancer care and health inequities: Stratified patienthood in Brazil
Jorge Alberto Bernstein Iriart and Sahra Gibbon

3 “It just keeps hurting”: Continuums of violence and their impact on cervical cancer mortality in Argentina
Natalia Luxardo and Linda Rae Bennett

4 Laughing in the face of cancer: Intersubjectivity and patient navigation in the US safety-net
Nancy J. Burke

5 Morality tales of reproductive cancer screening camps in South India
Cecilia Coale Van Hollen

6 Intersections of stigma, morality and care: Indonesian women’s negotiations of cervical cancer
Linda Rae Bennett and Hanum Atikasari

7 Untimely liver cancer and the temporalities of care in rural Senegal
Noémi Tousignant

8 Rehumanising illness: Practices of care in a cancer ward in Athens, Greece
Falia Varelaki

 9 Practices of containment in the ‘south-within-the-north’: Women with breast cancer in southern Italy
Cinzia Greco

10 Noisy bodies and cancer diagnostics in Denmark: Exploring the social life of medical semiotics
Rikke Sand Andersen, Sara Marie Hebsgaard Offersen and Camilla Hoffman Merrild

11 ‘Hard-to-Reach’? Meanings at the margins of care and risk in cancer research
Kelly Fagan Robinson and Ignacia Arteaga Pérez

12 Precarity and cancer among low-income populations in France: Intractable inequalities
Laurence Kotobi and Carolyn Sargent


Linda Rae Bennett is Associate Professor at the Nossal Institute for Global Health, University of Melbourne.

Lenore Manderson is Distinguished Professor of Public Health and Medical Anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Belinda Spagnoletti works for the Adelaide Primary Health Network (PHN).