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Title: Perceptions of health, illness and healing in a Sichuan village, China
Author: Lora-Wainwright, Anna
ISNI:       0000 0000 5287 6953
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis explores attitudes to the body, illness and healing in contemporary rural China through the prism of Pierre Bourdieu's notion of habitus. It is divided in two parts. Part 1 aims to situate attitudes to the body in the specific social, cultural and political economic settings which have engendered them. I show that bodily dispositions articulate ways of engaging with one's surroundings and claims to authority and status. Past experiences equip different generations with different habitus (Bourdieu, 1977; 1990). At the same time, habitus is revised in light of engagements with new environments. As such, this section shows that habitus is made through daily practices, and that attitudes to the body are contingent and contested. Hierarchies with regard to what constitutes a desirable body or a healthy diet are not stable but always disputed. Negotiations surrounding them are informative of wider social processes and serve to reproduce or challenge social relations and values. Part 2 examines bodily practices at times of illness through the case of oesophagus cancer, an illness prevalent in the area, and with specific reference to one case and brief comparisons to others (including some discussion of stomach cancer). This section aims to show that family relationships are produced and contested through various practices of care, and that such relations engender particular bodily attitudes. These practices are not enactments of an already given reality or relationship, but rather vital to producing them. Closer attention to practices during illness are therefore important for understanding how illness is experienced by all involved, but also how it intersects with family relations, attitudes to resources, strategies to secure them and invest them, and perceptions of the state and welfare provision. It shows that a study of social change and reproduction is central to understanding cancer. Conversely, practices surrounding cancer, such as decisions not to undergo surgery, also present ways in which social reproduction and change take place. Employing habitus allows a closer grasp of the intricate processes through which family relations are formed, why families opt for particular forms of treatment and how the effectiveness of therapy is produced.
Supervisor: Hsu, Elisabeth Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Body, Human ; Social aspects ; Esophagus ; Cancer ; Healing ; China ; Sichuan Sheng