Symptom: Subjectivities, social ills, technologies

João Biehl, Amy Moran-Thomas

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    78 Scopus citations


    In the domain of health, not only are the raw effects of economic, social, and medical inequalities continually devastating, but novel processes of reconfiguring illness experience, subjectivity, and control are also underway. Human relationships to medical technology are increasingly constituted outside the clinical encounter. In this article we explore how the domestic encroachment of medical commodities affects social bonds in both affluent and resource-poor contexts, as well as how these commodities become interwoven in the very fabric of symptoms and identities. Symptoms are more than contingent matters; they are, at times, a necessary condition for the afflicted to articulate a new relationship to the world and to others. In exploring how people conceptualize technological self-care, we are specifically concerned with disciplinary modes of evidence-making and ask the following: what are the possibilities and limitations of theoretical frameworks (such as structural violence, biopower, social suffering, and psychoanalysis) through which these conceptions are being analyzed in contemporary anthropological scholarship? What can the unique capacities of ethnography add to the task of capturing the active embroilment of reason, life, and ethics as human conditions are shaped and lost? The intellectual survival of anthropological theory, we argue, might well be connected to people's own resilience and bodily struggles for realities to come.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)267-288
    Number of pages22
    JournalAnnual Review of Anthropology
    StatePublished - Oct 2009

    All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

    • Cultural Studies
    • Anthropology
    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


    • Ethnographic theory
    • Lived experience
    • Medical science and capitalism


    Dive into the research topics of 'Symptom: Subjectivities, social ills, technologies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this