Accepted Paper:

Health Fiction, Performativity, and Pharmaceuticalzation: A Preliminary Remark on "Fictitious Health" in contemporary Biomedicalization  


Kan-Lin Hsu (Tunghai University)

Paper short abstract:

The author proposes the concepts of health fiction and fictitious health inspired by Karl Polanyi and Michael Callon to characterize the role of epidemiological studies in policy campaigns and pharmaceutical marketing as well as in reinforcing the tendency of pharmaceuticalization.

Paper long abstract:

In the wake of technoscientific transformation in biomedicine, scholarly efforts have been made to conceptualize the emerging form of medicalization and its social consequences. Concepts such as biomedicalization, pharmaceuticalization, biohealth and surplus health, among others, are heuristic in capturing our understandings of health and illness.

Writing from a combined viewpoint inspired by Karl Polanyi's "commodity fiction" and Michel Callon's "performative market", this paper coins the term "fictitious health" to characterize how epidemiological studies help to redefining health for biopharmaceutical industries and public health policy. Firstly, epidemiological studies continuously conduct health fiction to the extent that they systematically produced statistically significant health outcomes varied with various risk factors and protecting factors, whilst health outcomes revealed in the statistical context have been fictitious in the sense that there is no "ceteris paribus" condition in the real world. Drawing on epidemiological studies required by regulation, secondly, policy campaigns and pharmaceutical marketing are able to perform the supposed efficacy of health promotion policy and health-enhancing products. The combination of health fiction and performing fictitious health, the author argues, powerfully reinforces the tendency of pharmaceuticalization.

Panel T017
STS for pharmaceuticals and public health policy