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Social Constructions

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  1. Social Constructions

  2. Social Constructionism • how social phenomena develop in particular social contexts • a concept or practice which may appear to be natural and obvious to those who accept it, but in reality is an invention or artifact of a particular culture or society -- SOCIAL CONSTRUCT • Social constructs -- by-products of countless human choices rather than laws resulting from divine will, nature, OR ANY OTHER EXPLANATION THAT PURPORTS OTHERWISE

  3. Sociology of knowledge • Economic & social arrangements shape knowledge • Ideology and knowledge • Social structure/stratification : power • Administrative apparatus, forms of governance and knowledge • Concepts we use to think with reflect social organization of society • Social constructions

  4. Constructing Facts & other Social Constructs • Kuhn shows scientific paradigms as assumptions about the social world & reality often grounded more in practice than in theory • Facts & Fictions • facts are things done • fiction is about action yet implicated in a dialectic of the “true” (natural) & the “counterfeit” (artifactual) • the act of fashioning • Facts & fiction -- embedded in social forms & practices • entangled within interpretation & language

  5. Scientific paradigms • Thomas Kuhn (PhD Harvard physics) • science does not progress via a linear accumulation of new knowledge • periodic revolutions: "paradigm shifts" • anomalous results build up, science reaches a crisis, at which point a new paradigm • it is not possible to understand one paradigm through the conceptual framework and terminology of another rival paradigm (relativism) • theory choice is fundamentally irrational: if rival theories cannot be directly compared, then one cannot make a rational choice as to which one is better • criteria admittedly determine theory choice, they are imprecise in practice and relative to individual scientists

  6. Science as Story • Donna Haraway -- story of scientific progress (primatology) • From misty sight prone to invention to sharp eyed quantitative knowledge rooted in experiment • Stories with a particular aesthetic (realism) & a particular politics (progress) • Nature is constructed & reconstructed in the bodies & lives of 3rd world animals serving as surrogates for man • Stories of race, gender, class, romance, Judeo-Christian science

  7. Theory has a Gender • Catherine Lutz -- gender & the formation of the canons of anthro • Through the designation of particular works as theoretical • Masculinizing of theory -- raced & classed • historical processes by which subordinate groups are allowed access to writing • theory as male writing -- patriarchy, patriline, author, theory

  8. Knowledge and Ideology • Knowledge – systematic, diagnostic, neutral, objective, analytic, clarity, facts, useful • Positive image • Ideology – justificatory, defensive of belief & values, biased, emotive, political, murky/cloudy, caught up in life situations • Both are concerned with the definitoon of a problem situation • Both are responses to felt lack of needed information

  9. Knowledge and Ideology as Cultural Systems • Both are critical and imaginative works • Symbolic structures • Differing symbolic strategies for encompassing situations • Science names situations with an attitude of disinterestedness • Ideology names a situation with an attitude of commitment • Stylistic differences • Different enterprises but not unrelated

  10. Knowledge is a Social Product • actors interacting together form, over time, typifications or mental representations of each other's actions • typifications eventually become habitualized into reciprocal roles played by the actors in relation to each other • reciprocal roles become routinized, the typified reciprocal interactions are said to be institutionalized. • process of institutionalization, meaning is embedded and institutionalized into individuals and society • knowledge and people's conception of (and therefore belief regarding) what reality 'is' becomes embedded into the institutional fabric and structure of society • social reality is therefore said to be socially constructed

  11. Knowledge as Power/Power as Knowledge • F. Nietzsche – “knowledge works as a tool of power” • M. Foucault – knowledge/power • Power is based on knowledge and makes use of knowledge • power reproduces knowledge by shaping it in accordance with its anonymous intentions • Power (re-) creates its own fields of exercise through knowledge

  12. Discourse: Foucault • ways of constituting knowledge, together with the social practices, forms of subjectivity and power relations which inhere in such knowledges and relations between them • a form of power that circulates in the social field and can attach to strategies of domination as well as those of resistance • questions of how some discourses have shaped and created meaning systems that have gained the status and currency of 'truth', and dominate how we define and organize both ourselves and our social world

  13. Deconstructing Social Constructs • uncover the ways in which individuals and groups participate in the creation of their perceived social reality • looking at the ways social phenomena are created, institutionalized, and made into tradition by humans • Socially constructed reality is seen as an ongoing, dynamic process • reality is reproduced by people acting on their interpretations and their knowledge of it.

  14. Deconstruction: Derrida • A strategy of critical analysis • understanding language as writing and how this leads to the impossibility of a straightforward theory of intentional meaning • concepts in terms of their structure and genesis • Individual language users operate within a system of meaning that is given to them from outside • Meaning is therefore not fully under the control of the individual language user

  15. Medicine as Social Construct • Medicine is a set of categories that filters and constructs experience • Medicine produces its own objects and subjects (subjectivity & subject positions) • i.e. body mind dualism – nature is separate from society

  16. Disease as a natural fact ? • recognizable by natural scientific methodology • Statistical concepts of normality • Diseases change independently of their biology – TB steadily declined prior to discovery of tubercule bacillus & vaccine • Diseases produced in social environments • Repetitive strain injury (RSI) • Is it a disease or political issue– various interpretations • Alzheimer’s, hypertension, dyslexia, etc. • Masturbatory insanity, hysteria

  17. Diabetes and the epidemiological transition • Demographic transition & health transition • Story of the irony of progress (Rousseau) • Story of the modern (Rousseau) • 19th century evolutionary paradigms of social and cultural evolution and social development • Modern, modernity, modernization • Important categories • “tradition” & “modern”

  18. The Irony of Progress • Negative impact of progress • Degeneration into social inequality • Harsh impact of private property, agriculture, mechanical arts • Humans can exploit humans Jean-Jacques RousseauPhilosopher 1712 - 1778

  19. Jared Diamond a society can "choose to fail." Collapse climate change hostile neighbors trade partners society's response to its environmental problems. The Irony of Progress Redux

  20. Modernity & the Discourse of Irony • Émile Durkheim • Anomie • Karl Marx • Alienation • Charles Dickens • Ugly social truths of modern life • Dystopia or anti-utopia

  21. Modernity & Modernism • Marshall Berman • To be modern, I said, is to experience personal and social life as a maelstrom, to find one's world and oneself in perpetual disintegration and renewal, trouble and anguish, ambiguity and contradiction: to be part of a universe in which all that is solid melts into air. To be a modernist is to make oneself somehow at home in the maelstrom, to make its rhythms one’s own, to move within its currents in search of the forms of reality, of beauty, of freedom, of justice, that its fervid and perilous flow allows.(All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, The Experience of Modernity, 1988: 345-346)

  22. Epidemiological/Health Transitions • complex change in patterns of health and disease • the interactions between these patterns and the demographic, economic, and sociological determinants and consequences.

  23. Transitions & Disease Profiles • pestilence and famine • receding pandemics • degenerative and man-made diseases

  24. Life Expectancies as Measure of Health Transitions

  25. From Infectious to Chronic Diseases

  26. 1900 Influenza and pneumonia Tuberculosis Gastritis Diseases of the Heart Cerebrovascular Disease Chronic Nephritis Accidents Cancer Certain diseases of infancy Diptheria 1998 Heart Diseases (31.4% ) Cancer (23.3%) Cerebrovascular diseases (6.9%) Pulmonary disease (4.7%) Accidents (4.1%) Pneumonia and Influenza (3.7%) Diabetes (2.7%) Suicide (1.3%) Diseases of Arteries (1.2%) Nephritis (1.1%) 10 leading causes of death in US

  27. Developed countries IHD (arteries) 22.6% CVD (heart/stroke) 13.7% Lung Ca. 4.5% Respiratory infections 3.7% Pulmonary Disease 3.1% Colon Ca 2.6% Stomach Ca 1.9% Self-inflicted injuries 1.9% Diabetes 1.7% Breast Ca 1.6% Developing countries IHD 9.1% CVD 8.0% Respiratory infections 7.7% HIV/AIDS 6.9% Perinatal conditions 5.6% Pulmonary disease 5% Diarrhoeal diseases 4.9% Tuberculosis 3.7% Malaria 2.6% Road accidents 2.5% Ten leading causes of death (2000) Beaglehole and Yach. Lancet 2003

  28. Demographic Transitions and Health Transitions • Decreased fertility rates • Decreased infant mortality rates • Increased life expectancies at birth • Reflect shifts in social and economic patterns • Changes in health conditions • Changes in health care

  29. Population and demographic changes

  30. Human Determinants of Transitions • technological change • alterations in the environment • alterations in food type, availability, production, preparation, and consumption • alterations in patterns of energy expenditure • interplay of environmental factors and the genetic pool of a community

  31. Two Examples of Interplay of Human Determinants of Health • Malaria & Sickle Cell Anemia • Type 2 Diabetes & Chronic Diseases

  32. Epistemological Framework of Epidemiological Transitions

  33. MULTIPLE EPIDEMIOLOGIC TRANSITIONS • recent resurgence of infectious disease mortality marks a third epidemiologic transition • characterized by newly emerging, re-emerging, and antibiotic resistant pathogens in the context of an accelerated globalization of human disease ecologies

  34. Human Determinants of Transitions REDUX • technological change • alterations in the environment • alterations in food type, availability, production, preparation, and consumption • alterations in patterns of energy expenditure • interplay of environmental factors and the genetic pool of a community • Social inequality? Where is it?

  35. “SOCIAL FORCES AND PROCESSES EMBODIED AS BIOLOGICAL EVENTS”THE CRITICAL PERSPECTIVE • Paul Farmer: • “Inequality itself constitutes our modern plague – inequality is a pathogenic force” • “Social inequalities often determine both the distribution of modern plagues and clinical outcomes among the afflicted”

  36. Life Expectancy & Ethnicity in the US

  37. Canadian First Nations & Aboriginal Peoples • serious health-related challenges • high rates of chronic and contagious diseases and shorter life expectancy • Compared to the general Canadian population • Heart disease is 1.5 times higher; • Type 2 diabetes is 3 to 5 times higher • Tuberculosis infection rates are 8 to 10 times higher. • 15 per cent of new HIV and AIDS infections occur in Aboriginal people.

  38. First Nations and TB • Overcrowded housing is associated with an increased risk of tuberculosis in a community

  39. Bourdieu: 3 types of capital • Economic capital: command over economic resources (cash, assets). • Social capital: resources based on group membership, relationships, networks of influence and support. • Cultural capital: forms of knowledge; skill; education; any advantages a person has which give them a higher status in society, including high expectations. • E.g. Parents provide children with cultural capital, the attitudes and knowledge that makes the educational system a comfortable familiar place in which they can succeed easily.

  40. Social Capital & Health in Canada With regard to social capital, studies increasingly show that communities supported by a substantial stock of social capital have better economic and social performance (Putnam, 2000). Better health, health conditions, and health care.

  41. Canada, Health, & Inequalities

  42. First Nations: Non-Medical Determinants of Health • only 56.9% of homes were considered adequate in 1999--00. • only 33.6% of communities had at least 90% of their homes connected to a community sewage disposal system. • In 1999, 65 First Nations and Inuit communities were under a boil water advisory for varying lengths of time • communicable diseases such as giardiasis and shigellosis (both acute infectious diseases characterized by diarrhea, fever and nausea) can be traced to poor water quality

  43. Cultural Capital & Health

  44. First Nations: Education

  45. World-Wide Health Inequalities