Individualized risk and public health: Medical perils, political pathways, and the cultural framing of vaccination under the shadow of sexuality

Keith Wailoo, Julie Livingston, Steven Epstein, Robert Aronowitz

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    Abstract

    Given the difficulty of confronting the fundamental social and environmental causes of disease, vaccines stand out as a supposedly simple solution, and they are widely acknowledged to be our best means of disease prevention. Modern history is replete with vaccine success stories, and vaccines have obvious appeal in a world of growing health threats. Yet, as Laura Mamo, Amber Nelson, and Aleia Clark write in chapter 7, vaccines are not neutral entities but rather sites of "cultural, social, and po liti cal contestation." As magic bullets promising intangible benefits against uncertain future perils, they inevitably provoke extreme responses: an optimism that can verge on fantasy and a skepticism that can carry over into rejection. When threats target particular segments of the population and are not perceived to be imminent, the push for vaccination may seem especially troublesome-giving rise to much cultural anxiety and sociopo liti cal debate. If vaccines are a loaded topic, so too are sexually transmitted infections, which have long operated as both dense signifiers and material manifestations of our complicated sexual politics. This doubly charged combination of the complexities of vaccination and those of sexuality describes the human papillomavirus.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationThree Shots at Prevention
    Subtitle of host publicationThe HPV Vaccine and the Politics of Medicine's Simple Solutions
    PublisherThe Johns Hopkins University Press
    Pages293-302
    Number of pages10
    ISBN (Print)0801896711, 9780801896729
    StatePublished - Dec 1 2010

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    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Sciences(all)

    Cite this

    Wailoo, K., Livingston, J., Epstein, S., & Aronowitz, R. (2010). Individualized risk and public health: Medical perils, political pathways, and the cultural framing of vaccination under the shadow of sexuality. In Three Shots at Prevention: The HPV Vaccine and the Politics of Medicine's Simple Solutions (pp. 293-302). The Johns Hopkins University Press.