Resisting the 'patient' body of the biomedical model: a performative account

Sarah Pini

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference abstract


Receiving a cancer diagnosis and undergoing oncological treatments is often experienced as a highly traumatic event. Many psychological and socio-anthropological studies observed how undergoing chemotherapy deeply mined cancer patients’ perceptions of self and personal identity. Part of this disruption is tied to the biomedical model of medicine, according to which the subject of the illness event is the pathology rather than the person diagnosed with the disease. In this view, a body-self is made a ‘patient’ body-object that can be enrolled in a therapeutic protocol, investigated, assessed, and transformed. How can it be possible for cancer patients to embody the opposite dimensions of their body-self and their body-diseased-object? Can we envisage an alternative approach that enables the coping with trauma and the social suffering tied to the status of cancer patient? Building from Nancy Sheper-Hughes and Margaret Lock ‘the mindful body’ (1987), this work provides support for rethinking the cancer event through a performative perspective and illustrates how the biomedical model of the body can be challenged and resisted through mindful embodied practices such as dance. Based on phenomenological approach and auto-ethnographic analysis, including the material collected over ten years of oncological treatments, video dance performances and physical explorations, this work shows how dance can set in motion processes of healing and resistance. It aims to illustrates how dance can shape an alternative interpretation to the biomedical model of the body that allows the emergence of new meanings and offers ground for transformation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAAS2018 Life in an age of death
Subtitle of host publication2018 conference of the Australian Anthropological Society: panel and paper abstracts
Place of PublicationCairns, Queensland
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventAustralian Anthropological Society (AAS) Annual Conference 2018: Life in an Age of Death - James Cook University, Cairns, Australia
Duration: 4 Dec 20187 Dec 2018


ConferenceAustralian Anthropological Society (AAS) Annual Conference 2018
Internet address


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