Accepted Paper:

Embodied biographies of heritable breast cancer risk: (re)making the female body amidst medical, religious and social discourses   


Eirini Kampriani (University of Cyprus)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the implications of modern biotechnologies for women’s perceptions and embodiment of heritable breast cancer risk, in view of broader modernization and secularization processes at place in Greek society.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the implications of cultural articulations of heritable disease and predictive genetics, in the case of breast cancer, and the extent to which authoritative knowledge and institutional practices necessarily impose 'novel' ways of thinking about the female body. Drawing on the particularities of the ethnographic context of Northern Greece, in a rural area and among a so-called socio-economically disadvantaged population, I intend to show how developments in the field of breast cancer prevention and prediction are interwoven with the challenges and possibilities of the modernization and secularization processes. Notions of 'control' of or 'protection' from 'inherited suffering' are put to work in the medical and religious domains, through a renewed repertoire on pre-existing meaning-systems that highlights often contrasting aspects of collectivity and individuality and renders the individual/family body a contested ground. For women with high-risk family history of breast cancer, the moral and social prerequisites of these modes of embodiment are not always readily accepted or easily fulfilled. An understanding of embodied breast cancer risk as a family heritage, where biology and a person's social biography meet, integrates the potential of both suffering and power for the female subject but also the possibility of subversion.

Panel IW02
Rethinking the body: biotechnology and sociality