Joanna KempnerNot Tonight: Migraine and the Politics of Gender and Health

University of Chicago Press, 2014

by Monique Dufour on March 21, 2015

Joanna Kempner

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Migraine is real, and it is pervasive—at least 12% of Americans suffer some form of this spectrum disorder. Still, migraine remains a conflicted illness—people routinely dispute the legitimacy of both the experience and its sufferers. In Not Tonight: Migraine and the Politics of Gender and Health (University of Chicago Press, 2014), Joanna Kempner sets out to explore “how migraine can simultaneously disrupt so many lives and continue to be questioned and trivialized by the culture at large.” Kempner begins by tracing the changing biomedical understandings of migraine over the past three hundred years, discovering a long history of “migraine’s association with weak, gendered personalities.” Kempner then turns to four contemporary figures and cases: headache specialists, migraine advocates, pharmaceutical companies, and the case of cluster headaches (a disorder commonly associated with men). Throughout, she shows how the recent recasting of migraine from a “disorder of neurotic women” to a neurobiological disease has done little to change the cultural meaning of headache disorders because “even as a ‘brain disease,’ migraine remains plagued by gendered images, metaphors, and stereotypes.”


James A. Holstein, Richard S. Jones, and George Koonce, Jr.Is There Life After Football?: Surviving the NFL

March 17, 2015

The health of former NFL players has received plenty of attention in recent years. The suicides of Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, along with stories of retired players in only their 40s and 50s affected by dementia and ALS, have revealed the toll that a professional football career can take on a man’s body and […]

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Donna J. DruckerThe Classification of Sex: Alfred Kinsey and the Organization of Knowledge

March 10, 2015

Donna J. Drucker is a guest professor at Darmstadt Technical University in Germany. Her book The Classification of Sex: Alfred Kinsey and the Organization of Knowledge (University of Pittsburg Press, 2014) is an in-depth and detailed study of Kinsey’s scientific approach. The book examines his career and method of gathering vast amounts of data, identifying […]

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Lisa StevensonLife Beside Itself: Imagining Care in the Canadian Arctic

March 5, 2015

Lisa Stevenson’s new book opens with two throat-singing women and one listening king. Whether we hear them sitting down to a normal night’s dinner (as the women) or stalking the pages of a short story from Italo Calvino’s Under the Jaguar Sun (as the king), listening to these voices can potentially transform our notion of […]

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Joseph M. GabrielMedical Monopoly: Intellectual Property Rights and the Origin of the Modern Pharmaceutical Industry

February 19, 2015

Commercial interests are often understood as impinging upon the ethical norms of medicine. In his new book, Medical Monopoly: Intellectual Property Rights and the Origins of the Modern Pharmaceutical Industry (University of  Chicago Press, 2013), Joe Gabriel shows how the modernization of American medicine was bound up in the ownership, manufacture, and marketing of drugs. Gabriel unearths […]

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Emilie CloatrePills for the Poorest: An Exploration of TRIPS and Access to Medication in Sub-Saharan Africa

February 9, 2015

Emilie Cloatre’s award-winning book, Pills for the Poorest: An Exploration of TRIPS and Access to Medication in Sub-Saharan Africa (Palgrave, 2013), locates the effects—and ineffectualness—of a landmark international agreement for healthcare: the World Trade Organization’s “Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.” Cloatre takes seriously the idea of TRIPS as a technology in Bruno Latour’s meaning of […]

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Elena ConisVaccine Nation: America’s Changing Relationship with Immunization

February 2, 2015

The 1960s marked a “new era of vaccination,” when Americans eagerly exposed their arms and hind ends for shots that would prevent a range of everyday illnesses—not only prevent the lurking killers, like polio. Medical historian Elena Conis shows that Americans’ gradual acceptance of vaccination was far from a medical fait accompli: it was—and remains—a […]

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Keith WailooPain: A Political History

January 20, 2015

Is pain real? Is pain relief a right? Who decides? In Pain: A Political History (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014), Keith Wailoo investigates how people have interpreted and judged the suffering of others in the US from the mid-1940s to the present. While doctors and patients figure in his story, the primary protagonists are politicians, judges, […]

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S. Lochlann JainMalignant: How Cancer Becomes Us

January 14, 2015

Cancer pervades American bodies—and also habits of mind. Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us (University of California Press, 2013) is a sharp, adventurous book by the established legal anthropologist, S. Lochlann Jain. The book simultaneously complicates and clarifies the multiple ways in which cancer and patient-hood gets appropriated, embodied and reproduced through seemingly quotidian activities—from opening an […]

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Alex NadingMosquito Trails: Ecology, Health and the Politics of Entanglement

December 18, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Latin American Studies] Dengue fever is on the rise globally. Since it is transmitted by mosquitoes which reside and reproduce in human environments, eradication efforts involve households and the people who keep them clean as well as moral and persuasive campaigns of surveillance and invigilation. In his new book Mosquito Trails: Ecology, Health […]

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