HLTC05H3 Chapter Notes -Whitehall Study, Social Inequality

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9 Nov 2012
o Social inequality and health opened up to anthropological perspective
o Cross cultural framework that understands the body deeply as historicized
and socialized
o Inequality/disease relation a form of violence enacted through cultures and
o Increasingly a-modern therapeutic economy where competing powers and
therapeutic claims vie for legitimacy and right to manage misfortune
o Biomedical technologies conjugate with material inequalities to create novel
markets that have intensified and accelerated the commodification of body
(organ trades)
o Poor trade long term health for survival while rich are able to abundantly
purchase better health
Social Determinants of health
o Poverty is only robust social determinant of health (material deprivation)
mechanism is well understood
o Whitehall study; life expectancy among british servants, increased with
rank, even when standard factors influencing risk of death were taken in,
suggested that poverty could not be the sole social factor accounting for
adverse health outcomes
o Social inequality ill health (independently of income level)
o Hierarchy effects can act ACROSS large pops., and not just within discrete
o Gradient effect at same level of absolute income, an individual in a
more egalitarian society will be healthier than one in a less egalatarian
society ….affects health across ALL INCOME LEVELS
o The term ‘social class’ too blunt to capture fine grained diffs. Within
groups that share material conditions, nor does it account for spread
within and b/w classes
o Important to separate absolute poverty from relative poverty
o materiality of the bodyanthropology of the body that has shown how social relations invest and
express the body, either as inscription (Turner 1980), experience and its embodiment as traces in
the body (Pandolfi 1990), or practice, sedimented into what Bourdieu has called habitus (Farquhar
1994b). This social dimension makes for a politics of the body, visible in the political economy of
the body (Goodman & Leatherman 1998) or through the scrutiny of the processes through which
the body may express resis- tance to dominant political forms (Comaroff 1985). By focusing on
how the body is located within historical and social relations, this literature provides an impor- tant
theoretical stepping stone to formulating an anthropological problematic that is more sharply
focused on the relationship between social inequality and disease.
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