typically uses qualitative methods including discourse analysis and interviews

Typically uses qualitative methods including

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typically uses qualitative methods including discourse analysis and interviews about life experiences (Holmes, 2012; Veenstra, 2011). Michel Foucault (1994 [1973]), in extending conceptualizations of power, has had significant influence on the sociology of health and illness. He sees power as diffused and embedded in social relations whereby people internalize professional models and act
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McDaniel 829 as willing subjects (Powell, 2009). This occurs not only in our relations with medical and other professionals, but also in our relations to our own health and illness, and to our own bodies (Bleakley and Bligh, 2009). Discourse analysis is frequently linked with Foucauldian approaches in examining, for example, people’s accounts of illness and healing and how they connect with self-understandings of identities as they evolve. Hacking’s (1999) theory of ‘looping effects’ would be an example. Social science or medically created categories/labels such as abused woman syndrome, teenage pregnancy survivor or playground bully can have looping effects by changing the individuals thus classified. Another example is how suicide has changed from being seen as criminal to being a public health and mental health issue (Spiwak et al., 2012). Those who are sui- cidal see themselves differently, and society sees them differently as a result. ‘The medi- cal gaze’ extends beyond patient–doctor relations to structure how we understand, regulate and experience our bodies and their symptoms, and hence how we see ourselves. Foucault’s theories opened the door for creation of a new subdiscipline, ‘sociology of the body’ (Turner, 1997), which looks at the body as a social and cultural construct. Social psychological approaches focus on human agency, or the actions or behaviours of individuals with respect to health and illness. This is not a new theoretical stance in sociology of health and illness, but has seen a resurgence with more attention paid by postmodern theory to the role of agents in making their own lives. This focus does not mean, however, that social structural factors are thought not to matter. Rather, there is interest among some who favour a social psychological perspective to examine how and why individuals and groups behave as they do within social structures, particularly within structures of social inequality. Social psychological perspectives, including sym- bolic interactionism, phenomenology, ethnography and interpretative enquiry, share an interest in how we construct meaning and interpret the world through social interac- tions. How we construct and maintain beliefs about health would be an example of this approach. Newer theoretical approaches in sociology of health and illness include the life course perspective, disability theory and structuration. Life course theory (Elder, 1975) focuses on the intersection of individual biographies with historical events. Life course theory is widely used in sociology. In sociology of health and illness specifically, it brings atten-
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  • Summer '18
  • Monroe
  • Sociology, The Land, Journal Of Health And Social Behavior, Social Science and Medicine

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