Accepted Paper:

The anthropology of health disobedience  

Author:

Rolf Andreas Markussen (UiT The Arctic University of Norway)

Paper short abstract:

This paper seeks to go beyond the deficit model as the dominant framework applied in explaining non-compliance and health disobedience. Instead, it suggest (re-)contextualized 'thick descriptions' of health related behavior.

Paper long abstract:

Within the domain of Public Health policy, in which the science of epidemiology holds a hegemonic position as a provider of knowledge, individual behavior is framed as a determinant influencing states of health and therewith a key target in public health intervention studies. Hence, people's 'health behavior' is ordered into etiological models of disease and illness. In its explanation of non-compliance to public health intervention, epidemiology rests heavily on the notions of probabilistically inferred causality, the use of counterfactual reasoning and related use of deficit-models. People's health disobedience is likely to be seen as caused by something lacking, whether it be knowledge (health illiteracy) or lack of access to other health engendering assets.

This paper seeks to go beyond the deficit model as the dominant framework applied in explaining non-compliance and health disobedience. Instead, it suggest (re-)contextualized 'thick descriptions' of health related behavior. This implies treating beliefs and ways in which people live their everyday lives as inseparable from how they respond to science produced knowledge and recommendations aiming at promoting 'good health behavior'. Variations regarding how people share the problem definitions produced by scientists, adherence to the imaginary of controlling one's own health destiny, general inclination to governance by authorities and elites are all examples of relevant dimensions for understanding compliance and disobedience. Health disobedience should be contextualized and studied as an effect of what people possess, not as a result of something they lack in a pathologizing and implicitly, counterfactual explanatory framework.

Panel G07
STS for critical public health studies