S. Lochlann Jain
How Cancer Becomes Us
University of California Press 2013
Cancer pervades American bodies–and also habits of mind. Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us (University of California Press, 2013) is a sharp, adventurous book by the established legal anthropologist, S. Lochlann Jain. The book simultaneously complicates and clarifies the multiple ways in which cancer and patient-hood gets appropriated, embodied and reproduced through seemingly quotidian activities–from opening an insurance bill to enjoying yoga class. Jain shows, in other words, exactly how and in what way cancer becomes you and me. The book draws together interviews, observations, and Jain’s first-hand experience as a cancer patient, as well as a range of cultural remains, from literature to law to life tables. In doing so, Jain holds a mirror to corporate stakeholders, to everyday Americans, and to herself in order to show, paradoxically, how modern Americans reinvest in cancer in the very practices designed to promote health. The book is a critique of the ways of life and “ways of knowing” that drive twenty-first century America–and an uncomfortable, necessary look at ourselves. Just when you think scholars have protested too much about the hidden costs of better health, Jain shows that Americans have not protested nearly enough.