chapter  1
The Ambiguity of Blame and the Multiple Careers of Cancer Etiologies in Rural China
Pages 16

On October 19, 2004, I followed Erjie to her natal village to celebrate her father’s 62nd birthday. I had lived with her, her husband and their daughter since June in Baoma village, Langzhong county (Sichuan Province) to carry out fi eldwork on experiences of health, illness and health care in rural China. The occasion was particularly poignant. Erjie’s father, who I would learn to call Gandie (literally meaning dry father, a concept akin to Godfather), had been diagnosed with esophagus cancer some weeks earlier. However, as is often the case, his family had not informed him. During the half-hour walk to her hometown up and down the hill and past dozens of vegetable plots, Erjie argued at length that repressed anger caused Gandie’s cancer. She was so adamant that her father would recover if he could just stop getting angry that I started to doubt he had been diagnosed with cancer at all. Around 50 people attended his birthday party, but Gandie was clearly not in the mood for celebration. He ate nothing, paced the courtyard dressed in his best traditional silk shirt, a dark blue jacket reminiscent of revolutionary times, and a hat. He looked unsettlingly tense and restless, and seemed to be in pain.