In looking at health literacy from a socio-cultural and critical perspective, one of the themes I’m looking at is oppression. I had originally thought that I’d be looking at my experience and how the healthcare system (e.g. providers, insurance companies) was oppressing me – although I questioned the term oppression in part because the healthcare system was also providing me with care. There were some aspects of the system that were setup to privilege the providers at the cost of oppressing the patients (e.g. the excessive amount of time patients spend in waiting rooms). This is where I thought I would be going with the theme of oppression.
My work doing actor-network theory research has shown me how non-human actors (in some cases objects or software) can have influence. As I re-read through my research narrative, it occurs to me that in the same way as software can influence behaviour, the disease itself can be a non-human source of oppression, as can the treatment for the disease. Yes, these things are created by humans (but then so is software), but the actor (or influencer) of the phenomena under study could be a non-human actor.
“It started at about 5pm last night, I felt these pulsing pains up my spine. By 8pm last night, they were excruciating whenever I was in the seated position.”(This too shall pass, July 16, 2014).
Now, as I re-read through my research narrative, more so than the healthcare system, I see additional causes of oppression – the disease itself and the treatments for the disease. Initially, I had only been considering the actors as those that were people or corporations. I had not considered that in a healthcare sense, that there were non-human actors — diseases and treatments.
When I look at the disease and treatment, I can see clearly the oppression that they exerted – and even four years later they continue to exert. I no longer have a question about whether or not the word oppression is an appropriate one. With breast cancer, both the disease itself and the treatments for the disease are sources of oppression.
Feature image CC0 via Pixabay.