Social and Cultural Lives of Immune Systems

Front Cover
James M. Wilce Jr.
Routledge, Sep 2, 2003 - Social Science - 328 pages
Social and Cultural Lives of Immune Systems introduces a provocative new hypothesis in medico-social theory - the theory that immunity and disease are in part socially constituted. It argues that immune systems function not just as biological entities but also as symbolic concepts charged with political significance. Bridging elements of psychology, sociology, body theory, immunology and medical anthropology, twelve papers from leading scholars explain some of the health-hazards of emotional and social pressure, whilst analysing the semiotic and social responses to the imagery of immunity.
 

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Contents

Introduction Social and cultural lives of immune systems in a semiotic universe
1
Theoretical perspectives
17
Telling stories The health benefits of disclosure
19
Relating to our worlds in a psychobiological context The impact of disclosure on selfgeneration and immunity
36
Metaphors our bodyminds live by
50
Immune to emotion The relative absence of emotion in PNI and its centrality to everything else
82
PNI in the wild Anthropological fieldwork using endocrine and immune variables
103
Childhood stress Endocrine and immune responses to psychosocial events
105
Civilization and its stressed discontents From individual stress to crossnational comparisons
189
The enigma of hypertension and psychosomatic illness Lessons for psychoneuroimmunology from beyond the conscious mind
191
Cultural variations in the placebo effect Ulcers anxiety and blood pressure
206
Corporeal flows The immune system global economies of food and new implications for health
232
Critical retrospectives
267
Stressful encounters of an immunological kind The social dimensions of psychoneuroimmunology
269
Reflections on embodiment
282
Index
303

Cultural congruity and the cortisol stress response among Dominican men
147
Life event stress and immune function in Samoan adolescents Toward a crosscultural psychoneuroimmunology
170

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About the author (2003)

Jim Wilce has been Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Northern Arizona University since 1994. His anthropology graduate studies, fieldwork, and his first book - Eloquence in Trouble: Poetics and Politics of Complaining in Bangladesh - combined his lifelong interests in language, illness, and healing. He has been working to develop a sociocultural perspective on psychoneuroimmunology and its role in symbolic healingsince 1990. His article on language and healing has appeared in Journal of Linguistic Anthropology (1999) and has been reprinted twice, and his work in psychiatric anthropology has appeared in Cultural Anthropology, and the forthcoming volume, The edge of Experience: Culture, Subjectivity, and Schizophrenia (Cambridge University Press, 2003).

Wilce lived in Bangledesh for five years in the 1980s and 1990s. He did fieldwork in the Chandpur and Comilla Districts, focusing on suffering and its discursive expressions in domestic and medical settings. He has focused particular attention on spontaneously improvised laments once heard commonly in Bangladesh and around the world. His article on lament appeared in Comparative Studies in Society and History (2001) and his new book on this topic, Crying Shame, should appear in 2005.

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