How Cancer Becomes Us

by S. Lochlann Jain

2016 J. I. Staley Prize

Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us2013. University of California Press2013. University of California Press

The winner of this year’s prestigious J.I. Staley Prize is Dr. S. Lochlann Jain for her book Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us. Pulling together vast amounts of cultural analysis across a range of material that includes history, oncology, law, economics, and literature, Dr. Jain explores why the “War on Cancer” remains unsuccessful. The reams of information, studies and data, added to a society that at once attempts to cure cancer as well as to make it profitable, create a virtually impossible to navigate cultural narrative. Malignant offers a brilliantly researched guide to untangling this web of uncertainty.

The Staley Prize committee explains the reasons why Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us stood out amongst the nominations for the 2016 award:

In Malignant, S. Lochlann Jain interrogates what she calls the “cancer complex” in the United States. As an anthropologist and a patient, she exposes the complexity of cancer—its inscrutability, ubiquity, and power to remake bodies and selves. Malignant shows how cancer is now a total social fact that ruptures and rearranges different areas of life, including patienthood, gender and sexuality, and medical expertise itself. Unsettling the logics of randomized controlled trials and profitable treatment regimes, Jain reveals the multiple injuries of cancer in an economy that generates toxic substances while demanding optimism and fortitude from patients. Malignant offers a strikingly original authorial voice as well as a vivid portrait of the paradoxes and uncertainties of life in industrial modernity; or, as Jain says, “living in prognosis.”

S. Lochlann Jain is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University and author of Injury: The Politics of Product Design and Safety Law in the United States. Her research is primarily concerned with the ways in which stories get told about injuries and in exploring the political and social significance of these stories.

Follow us: