Diseases and Diagnoses
The Second Age of Biology
Diseases and Diagnoses discusses why such social problems as addiction, sexually transmitted diseases, racial predisposition for illness, surgery and beauty, and electrotherapy, all of which concerned thinkers a hundred years ago, are reappearing at a staggering rate and in diverse national contexts. In the twentieth century such problems were viewed as only historical concerns. Yet in the twenty-first century, we once again find ourselves confronting their implications.
In this fascinating volume, Gilman looks at historical and contemporary debates about the stigma associated with biologically transmitted diseases. He shows that there is no indisputable way to measure when a disease or therapy will reappear, or how it may be perceived at any given moment in time. Consequently, Gilman focuses on the socio-cultural and political implications that the reappearance of such diseases has had on contemporary society. His approach is to show how culture (embedded in cultural objects) both feeds and is fed by the claims of medical science-as for example, the reappearance of "race" as a cultural as well as a medical category.
If the twentieth century was the "age of physics," in the latter part of the past century and certainly in the twenty-first century biological concerns are recapturing central stage. Achievements of the biological sciences are changing the public's sense of what constitutes cutting-edge science and medicine. None has captured the public imagination more effectively than the mapping of the human genome and the promise of genetic manipulation, which fuel what Gilman calls a "second age of biology." Although not without controversy, the role of genetics appears to be key. Gilman puts contemporary debates in historical context, showing how they feed social and cultural concerns as well as medical possibilities.
"The chapters touch on topics as diverse as race, alcoholism, sexually transmitted diseases, beauty, psychoanalysis, and Jewish identity. These illustrations are loosely tied together by their exploration of the many different ways that the language and labels used to describe both diseases and the populations affected become part of social and personal identity. Recommended."
—K. H. Jacobsen, Choice