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Confronting Cancer

Metaphors, Advocacy, and Anthropology

Edited by Juliet McMullin and Diane Weiner

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported more than 7 million deaths from cancer — 2.5 percent of all deaths—in 2005. Each year there are approximately 11 million new cases, and WHO expects that the number will double by 2020. Although the disease is not uncommon in rich nations, 70 percent of cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income regions and countries. The growing frequency of the disease reinforces its significance as a metaphor for lack of control and degeneration and as a signifier of difference, something that is part of one’s body and world and yet completely unacceptable. In this book, anthropologists examine the lived experiences of individuals confronting cancer and reveal the social context in which prevention and treatment may succeed or fail.

2009. 300 pp., 4 illustrations, notes, references, index, 6 x 9

Contributors: Leo R. Chavez, Deborah O. Erwin, Suzanne Huertin-Roberts, Marjorie Kagawa-Singer, Anastasia Karakasidou, Simon J. Craddock Lee, Holly F. Mathews, Juliet McMullin, Paul Stoller, Diane Weiner

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Confronting Cancer offers a highly engaging examination of the anthropology of cancer…. Authored by many of the leading figures in the field, this edited volume moves beyond examination to action, documenting the application of anthropological approaches and insights in the alleviation of suffering among people living with cancer. Thus [the book] exhibits the best of anthropology in its confrontation with the worst of human conditions.”
—Merrill Singer, University of Connecticut

“The contributors in Confronting Cancer … ask us to re-examine our stale assumptions and misuse of such concepts as culture, health disparities, and multiculturalism. The book is both timely and relevant for students, researchers, and practitioners who want to help those who feel powerless or misunderstood when confronted by cancer.”
—Jenny Joe, University of Arizona

“This stimulating book challenges the oncology professional’s viewpoint on the real meaning behind the provision of culturally competent healthcare. The goals of this book… are threefold: 1-to examine the metaphors of cancer that teach us about our differences; 2- to delineate metaphors that naturalize inequalities; and 3-to contribute to the alleviation of suffering associated with cancer while exposing those perspectives that seek to homogenize diversity…. The contributing authors in Confronting Cancer engage the professional to examine the anthropology of cancer and the application of concepts such as cultural competence, heatlh disparities, and the complexity of diversity within cultural groups.”
—Nancy Jo Bush, UCLA School of Nursing, Oncology Nursing Forum, vol. 37, no. 2, March 2010


  1. Introduction: An Anthropology of Cancer
    Juliet McMullin and Diane Weiner
  2. Remissioning Life, Reconfiguring Anthropology
    Paul Stoller
  3. Cancer Support Groups and Health Advocacy: One Size Doesn’t Fit All
    Holly F. Mathews
  4. Experiencing Diagnosis: Views from Latina Cervical Cancer Patients
    Juliet McMullin
  5. The Elusive Subversion of Order: Cancer in Modern Crete, Greece
    Anastasia Karakasidou
  6. Changing Views of Cancer: Three Decades of Southern California Native Perspectives
    Diane Weiner
  7. The Witness Project: Narratives That Shape the Cancer Experience for African American Women
    Deborah O. Erwin
  8. Wasting Away in Neoliberal-ville: Mexican Immigrant Women’s Views of Cervical Cancer, Social Inequality, and Gender Relations
    Leo R. Chavez
  9. Notes from White Flint: Identity, Ambiguity, and Disparities in Cancer
    Simon Craddock Lee
  10. Self and Other in Cancer Health Disparities: Negotiating Power and Boundaries in US Society
    Suzanne Heurtin-Roberts
  11. Where Is Culture in Cultural Tailoring?
    Marjorie Kagawa-Singer

There are no working papers for this book at the present time.