Of What is ‘Acute Cancer’ a Case? A Local Exemplar and Global Cancer Epidemic

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This paper is a reflection on the transient realty of cancer. I begin by briefly introducing four kinds of cancer epidemics. The main point that I wish to argue here is that a new kind of cancer epidemic – one inextricably linked with longevity – has become a positive present only very recently and very locally in high-income populations. I also propound that the term “epidemic”, in this case, might be inviting an unhealthy sense of reality.
In the second part, I will illustrate my points by presenting a local exemplar of 21st century accelerated change in cancer control: the sudden reframing of cancer as an acute condition in Denmark. I will argue, with Ian Hacking, that events which took place in Denmark in the 2000s were shaped by a configuration of four principle vectors to be named objectivity, narrativity, cultural polarity and longevity.
In the third part, I contemplate on the general significance of the Danish case and ask whether its vectors could provide a framework for understanding cancer transitions around the world. My provisional answer is yes: The prehistory of acute cancer in Denmark is closely tied with over 200 years of biopolitics, and its time-efficient apparatus thrives in many other places for the same reasons.
As a final point (but only if time permits), I will explain why I think local cases of longevity-driven cancer epidemics deserve ethnographic attention and a place on the future research agenda in the anthropology of cancer – perhaps even in the study of Man.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventCONFIGURING CONTAGION IN BIOSOCIAL EPIDEMICS: Symposium - Aarhus Universitet, Højbjerg, Denmark
Duration: 19 Apr 201221 Apr 2017


LocationAarhus Universitet

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