Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us

Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us

S. Lochlann Jain

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 0520276574

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Nearly half of all Americans will be diagnosed with an invasive cancer—an all-too ordinary aspect of daily life. Through a powerful combination of cultural analysis and memoir, this stunningly original book explores why cancer remains so confounding, despite the billions of dollars spent in the search for a cure. Amidst furious debates over its causes and treatments, scientists generate reams of data—information that ultimately obscures as much as it clarifies. Award-winning anthropologist S. Lochlann Jain deftly unscrambles the high stakes of the resulting confusion. Expertly reading across a range of material that includes history, oncology, law, economics, and literature, Jain explains how a national culture that simultaneously aims to deny, profit from, and cure cancer entraps us in a state of paradox—one that makes the world of cancer virtually impossible to navigate for doctors, patients, caretakers, and policy makers alike. This chronicle, burning with urgency and substance leavened with brio and wit, offers a lucid guide to understanding and navigating the quicksand of uncertainty at the heart of cancer. Malignant vitally shifts the terms of an epic battle we have been losing for decades: the war on cancer.

















informs communicative and collective action. ON STEROIDS After my treatment, as I distracted myself with afternoon TV and wondered if my career lay in ruins, the absolute last thing I wanted to do was write a book about cancer. I wanted to move on. But the terms indolent and relentless that doctors use to describe cancer also depict the treatment hangover. Seven years later, I still can’t eat curry or drink rooibos tea—let alone watch afternoon TV—without feeling that wave of nausea. I spend

2005). 7. Rhode, Beauty Bias, 11–13. 8. P. F. Infante, S. E. Petty, D. H. Groth et al., “Vinyl Chloride Propellant in Hair Spray and Angiosarcoma of the Liver among Hairdressers and Barbers: Case Reports,” International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health 15 (2009): 36–42. 9. Rhode, Beauty Bias, 36. 10. Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database, “Myths on Cosmetic Safety,” (accessed March 31, 2013). 11. Surgeons

Indeed, the bigger a problem cancer becomes, the more trials we need. Suffering and death undergird a system that works differently for different participants, constructing some members as experts and others as dependents. Stating the paradox of the mortality effect this baldly enables us to see how the RCT creates a temporal hierarchy in which the mortality of some props up, or allows, the immortality of the others. This mortality effect, however necessary, intensifies the hierarchies of

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on who we are. A minuet is a social dance. Partners mutually agree on the cadence of the steps. The rest of this chapter examines the underpinning choreography of some of cancer’s dissonances and the languages that squash these dissonances into a strict cadence. In searching first for the everywhere-and nowhereness of environmental exposures, I’m not particularly arguing that the environment should be cleaned up (although I think it should) or that such a cleansing would eliminate cancer (maybe

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