Op-Ed

Anne Pollock’s new book, Medicating Race, is a meditation on the history and present state of racialized (specifically African American) forms of heart disease.  As a history it is particularly interesting, documenting the emergence of the concept of ‘risk factor,’ the changing terrain of sampling procedures, and the social and economic forces that have shaped pharmaceutical enterprises.  This book will be of particular interest to medical professionals and others less well acquainted with social theory.  Anthropologists, however, may be left wishing that Pollock had engaged more deeply and critically with a few of the very salient theoretical issues toward which she gestures.  Benjamin, Heidegger, Latour, and Marx, among others make brief appearances but are not given sufficient space to do serious interpretive work.  Nonetheless, the strains Pollock does draw out are both provocative and important for the study of race and/in medicine.  I would like to ruminate on these themes as a way of reviewing her book in more detail.

Pollock notes an “epistemological eclecticism” that has significant implications for modern biomedicine.  In trying to address the question of...