Inspired by the sensory turn in the humanities, anthropologists have coined the term ‘an anthropology of the senses’ to describe the study of the perceptual construction and output of bodily sensations and sense-modalities (cf. Howes 2006; Nichter 2008). Starting from the premise that different cultures and social settings configure, elaborate and extend the senses in different directions, key proponents have argued for a greater empirical and analytical attention to the cultural embeddedness and socio-biological basis of bodily perception and experience. This follows a rethinking of a series of theoretical (cf. Hinton et al. 2008; Ingold 2011) and methodological commitments in anthropology (cf. Pink 2009; Stoller 2004) that also holds relevance for anthropological studies of health and illness, which is the focus of this special issue on sensations, symptoms and healthcare seeking.
Rikke Sand Andersen, Mark Nichter and Mette Bech Risør
Balancing Moral Possibilities in Everyday Life between Sensation, Symptom and Healthcare Seeking
Sara Marie Hebsgaard Offersen, Peter Vedsted and Rikke Sand Andersen
This article explores how healthcare-seeking practices and the transformation of bodily sensations into symptoms are embedded in what we term a ‘moral sensescape’ of ev- eryday life. Based on fieldwork in a suburban middle-class neighbourhood in Denmark, we discuss how a moral relation between the Danish welfare state and the middle-class popula- tion is embodied in a responsibility for individual health. Overall, we identify a striving to be a ‘good citizen’; this entails conflicting moral possibilities in relation to experiencing, inter- preting and acting on bodily sensations. We examine how people meet the conflicting moral possibilities of complying with current public health rhetoric on proper healthcare seeking, including timely presentation of symptoms, and simultaneously try to avoid misusing the healthcare system and be characterised as overly worried or even as a hypochondriac; this challenge constitutes complex navigational routes through the moral sensescape of the Danish middle class.
Exploring the Sensorial Embodiment of Class
Camilla Hoffmann Merrild, Peter Vedsted and Rikke Sand Andersen
Social inequality in cancer survival is well known, and within public health promo- tion enhancing awareness of cancer symptoms is often promoted as a way to reduce social differences in stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis. In order to add to our knowledge of what may lie behind social inequalities in cancer survival encountered in many high-income countries, this article explores the situatedness of bodily sensations. Based on comparative ethnographic fieldwork, we argue that the socially and biologically informed body influences how people from lower social classes experience sensations. Overall, we point out how the sensorial is tied to the embodiment of the social situation in the sense that some bodies make more ‘noise’ than others. It follows that standardised approaches to improving early care seeking by increasing knowledge and awareness may overlook essential explanations of social differences in symptom appraisal.