The Body Multiple

The Body Multiple : Ontology in Medical Practice

By (author) Annemarie Mol


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The Body Multiple is an extraordinary ethnography of an ordinary disease. Drawing on fieldwork in a Dutch university hospital, Annemarie Mol looks at the day-to-day diagnosis and treatment of atherosclerosis. A patient information leaflet might describe atherosclerosis as the gradual obstruction of the arteries, but in hospital practice this one medical condition appears to be many other things as well. From one moment, place, apparatus, specialty, or treatment to the next, a slightly different "atherosclerosis" is being discussed, measured, observed, or stripped away. Mol demonstrates that this multiplicity does not imply fragmentation. Instead, the disease is made to cohere through a range of tactics including transporting forms and files, making images, holding case conferences, and conducting doctor-patient conversations. The Body Multiple juxtaposes two distinct texts. Alongside Mol's analysis of her ethnographic material - interviews with doctors and patients; observations of medical examinations, consultations, and operations - runs a parallel text in which she reflects on the relevant literature. Mol draws on medical anthropology, sociology, feminist theory, philosophy, and science and technology studies to reframe such issues as the disease-illness distinction, subject-object relations, boundaries, difference, situatedness, and ontology. In dialogue with one another, Mol's two texts meditate on the multiplicity of reality-in-practice. Presenting philosophical reflections on the body and medical practice through vivid storytelling, The Body Multiple will be important to those in medical anthropology, philosophy, and the social study of science, technology, and medicine.

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  • Paperback | 216 pages
  • 154.94 x 231.14 x 15.24mm | 317.51g
  • 01 Feb 2003
  • Duke University Press
  • North Carolina
  • English
  • 4 b&w photographs
  • 0822329174
  • 9780822329176
  • 57,555

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Author Information

Annemarie Mol is Socrates Professor of Political Theory at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. She is coeditor of "Differences in Medicine: Unraveling Practices, Techniques, and Bodies "and "Complexities: Social Studies of Knowledge Practices, " both published by Duke University Press.

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Review quote

"[R]emarkable... [Mol's] new book is brilliant, wonderfully polyglot, insightful, humorous, and bold, almost but not quite to the point of outrageous... [H]er refreshing new book is an original 'object'-a creation that deserves a prominent place as a cornerstone in the canon of medical epistemology."--Jacalyn Duffin, Journal of History of Medicine and Allied Sciences "The Body Multiple is my nominee for defining medical sociology in the 21st century... [E]ngaging... Awards committees should take notice of this major contribution."--Arthur W. Frank, American Journal of Sociology Also reviewed in Interdisciplinary Science Reviews. Listed in CHE, Journal of the History of Idea, JHPPL, and Journal of the History of Ideas. Reviewed in Dutch in Krisis.

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Back cover copy

""The Body Multiple" is compelling, wonderfully and sometimes slyly well-written, and full of innovative insights into 'actually existing medical practice.' Mol's parallel text is well-placed intellectually in relation to her primary research text on atherosclerosis, and it provides a powerful teaching tool on how to think through and with science studies literatures when conducting an empirical project."--Rayna Rapp, New York University

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