Skip to main content

Week 14: Medicalisation and morality

Lecturer: Roberta Bivins

As the status and diagnostic and curative powers of the medical profession have increased, so too have their interventions into social and moral debates. In part, these interventions have taken the form of ‘medicalisation’ (the process by which specific human behaviours, characteristics, or activities come to be defined as medical conditions, suitable for therapeutic interventions and ‘cures’). Often, there is a close relationship between medicalisation and the moral beliefs and cultural assumptions of the dominant society. This week we will examine historical case studies of medicalisation, the assumptions underpinning them, and their wider impacts on both medicine and society. We will explore two case studies: obesity – the subject of your required readings – and addiction (particularly to alcohol).


Discussion/Essay Questions:

  • Who gains the most from medicalization?
  • Compare and contrast the medicalization of alcoholism [see further reading] and of obesity: do they reflect continuity or change in the relationship between medicine and morality?

Required Reading:

Annemarie Jutel, ‘Doctor’s Orders: Diagnosis, Medical Authority and the Exploitation of the Fat Body’, in Jan Wright and Valerie Harwood, eds, Biopolitics and the ‘Obesity Epidemic’: Governing Bodies (New York and London: Routledge, 2009), 60-77 EXTRACT

Alison Reiheld, ‘Patient complains of … How medicalization mediates power and justice’, International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, 3, (2010), pp. 72-98. e-journal

Katherina Vester, ‘Regime Change: Gender, Class, and the Invention of Dieting in Post-Bellum America’, Journal of Social History, 44 (2010), 39-70. Project Muse

And don't forget the Czerniawski you read last term (week 9) -- it is very relevant for this week too!


Further Readings: (see also Week 9)

Medicalisation in general and other examples:

Sheila Bock, ‘Contextualization, Reflexivity, and the Study of Diabetes-Related Stigma’, Journal of Folklore Research, 49 (2012), pp. 153-178. e-journal

Peter Conrad, ‘The discovery of hyperkinesis: Notes on the medicalization of deviant behavior’, Social Problems, 23 (1975), pp. 12–21. e-journal

Peter Conrad and Joseph W. Schneider, Deviance and Medicalization: From Badness to Sickness (St. Louis, 1980).

Renee C. Fox, ‘The Medicalization and Demedicalization of American Society’, Daedalus, 106 (1977), pp. 9-22. e-journal

Ann F. La Berge, “Medicalization and Moralization: the Crèches of Nineteenth-Century Paris,” Journal of Social History, 25 (1991), pp. 65-87.

Claudia J. Mills, ‘“Powders and Pills to Help Cure Children's Bad Habits”: The Medicalization of Misbehavior in Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’, Children's Literature Association Quarterly, 26 (2001), pp. 188-197. e-journal

Ann F. La Berge, “Medicalization and Moralization: the Crèches of Nineteenth-Century Paris,” Journal of Social History, 25 (1991), pp. 65-87.

Alison Reiheld, ‘Patient complains of … How medicalization mediates power and justice’, International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, 3, (2010), pp. 72-98. e-journal

Charles Rosenberg and Janet Golden (eds), Framing Disease: Studies in Cultural History of Disease (New Brunswick NJ, 1992), especially the essays in Part Two.

Charles E. Rosenberg, ‘Contested Boundaries: psychiatry, disease, and diagnosis’, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 49 (2006), pp. 407-424. e-journal

Charles E. Rosenberg, ‘The Tyranny of Diagnosis: Specific Entities and Individual Experience’, The Millbank Quarterly, 2002, 80, 237-60

Lynn Sacco, ‘Sanitized for Your Protection: Medical Discourse and the Denial of Incest in the United States, 1890-1940’, Journal of Women's History, 14 (2002), pp. 80-104 e-journal

Obesity:

Charlotte Biltekoff, Eating Right in America: The Cultural Politics of Food and Health (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013)

Roberta Bivins and Hilary Marland, ‘Weighting for Health: Management, Measurement and Self-surveillance in the Modern Household’, Social History of Medicine 29, no. 4 (2016): 757-780. http://shm.oxfordjournals.org/content/29/4/757.full.pdf?etoc

Lisa Coar, ‘“Abandon fat all ye who enter here”: (Dis)ordering the Male Body, c.1800-1910’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Leicester, 2014). Available for download here: https://lra.le.ac.uk/handle/2381/31837 (link to pdf is at bottom of this page)

Lucia Dacome, ‘Useless and Pernicious Matter: Corpulence in Eighteenth-Century England’, in Christopher E. Forth and Ana Carden-Coyne, eds, Cultures of the Abdomen: Diet, Digestion, and Fat in the Modern World (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 185-204

Amy Erdman Farrell, Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture (New York and London: New York University Press, 2011).

Christopher E. Forth and Ana Carden-Coyne, eds, Cultures of the Abdomen: Diet, Digestion, and Fat in the Modern World (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). E-BOOK

Sander L. Gilman, Obesity: The Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010)

Christopher Forth, ‘Fat, Desire and Disgust in the Colonial Imagination’, History Workshop Journal, vol. 73 no. 1, 2012, pp. 211-239. Project MUSE, muse.jhu.edu/article/475833.

R. Marie Griffith, Born Again Bodies: Flesh and Spirit in American Christianity (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2004)

Anita Guerrini, Obesity and Depression in the Enlightenment: The Life and Times of George Cheyne (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000).

Annemarie Jutel, ‘Doctor’s Orders: Diagnosis, Medical Authority and the Exploitation of the Fat Body’, in Jan Wright and Valerie Harwood, eds, Biopolitics and the ‘Obesity Epidemic’: Governing Bodies (New York and London: Routledge, 2009).

Deborah I. Levine, ‘Corpulence and Correspondence: President William H. Taft and the Medical Management of Obesity’, Annals of Internal Medicine, 15 October 2013, 159, 565-70.

Margaret A. Lowe , ‘From Robust Appetites to Calorie Counting: The Emergence of Dieting among Smith College Students in the 1920s’, Journal of Women's History, Volume 7, Number 4, Winter 1995, pp. 37-61. Project Muse

Ava Purkiss, ""Beauty Secrets: Fight Fat": Black Women's Aesthetics, Exercise, and Fat Stigma, 1900–1930s." Journal of Women's History, vol. 29 no. 2, 2017, pp. 14-37. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/jowh.2017.0019.

Hillel Schwartz, Never Satisfied: A Cultural History of Diets, Fantasies, and Fat (New York: Free Press, 1986)

Kerry Segrave, Obesity in America, 1850-1939: A Social History of Social Attitudes and Treatment (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2008).

Peter Stearns, ‘Fat in America’, in Christopher E. Forth and Ana Carden-Coyne, eds, Cultures of the Abdomen: Diet, Digestion, and Fat in the Modern World (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 239-254. E-BOOK

Peter N. Stearns, Fat History: Bodies and Beauty in the Modern West (New York: New York University Press, 1997).

Katherina Vester, ‘Regime Change: Gender, Class, and the Invention of Dieting in Post-Bellum America’, Journal of Social History, 2010, 44, 39-70.

George Vigarello, The Metamorphoses of Fat: A History of Obesity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), translated from French by C. Jon Delogu.

Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska, Managing the Body: Beauty, Health and Fitness in Britain, 1880-1939 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 62-148.

Addiction:

Sarah W. Tracy and Caroline Jean Acker (eds), Altering American Consciousness: The History of Alcohol and Drug Use in the United States, 1800–2000 (Boston, 2004).

David T. Courtwright, ‘How Real is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?’, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 47 (2004), pp. 608-616. e-journal

Janet Golden, ‘“An Argument that Goes Back to the Womb”: The Demedicalization of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, 1973-1992’, Journal of Social History, 33 (1999), pp. 269-298. e-journal.

Howard I. Kushner, ‘Taking Biology Seriously: The Next Task for Historians of Addiction?’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 80 (2006), pp. 115-143. e-journal

Jessica Warner, Craze: Gin and Debauchery in an Age of Reason (New York, 2002).

Susan Zieger, ‘"How Far am I Responsible?": Women and Morphinomania in Late-Nineteenth-Century Britain’, Victorian Studies, 48 (2005), pp. 59-81. e-journal.