chapter  1
8 Pages

Introduction

Bodies and Transitions in the Health Humanities
WithLisa M. DeTora, Stephanie M. Hilger

The first part of the introduction discusses how, in recent years, the transitioning body has become the subject of increasing scholarly, medical, and political interest. Recent high-profile sex transitions, such as Bruce Jenner’s transformation into Caitlyn, have contributed to a proliferation of public and private debates about the boundaries of personal identity and the politics of gender. Sexual transition is only one possible type of bodily transformation, and bodies that change forms vex many binaries that underpin daily life such as male/female, gay/straight, well/unhealthy, able/disabled, beautiful/ugly, or adult/child. When transformations and transitions involve trauma, illness, injury, surgery, or death, bodies can become culturally and socially illegible and enter the realm of abjection or even horror. Health humanities, a recent revision of medical humanities that includes patients and other nonphysicians, provides an interdisciplinary lens through which to read such bodily transformation and its representation in public culture. The second part of the introduction describes the three parts of the volume: “Medical Models, Charts, and Institutional Narratives,” “Invasive Influences and Corporeal Integrity,” and “Aging, Decline, and Death.” The authors in this volume discuss non-normative bodies from eighteenth-century France to present-day Iran and investigate narratives of cancer, aging, anorexia, AIDS, intersexuality, transsexuality, viruses, bacteria, and vaccinations.