"In some ways disease does not exist until we have agreed that it
does, by perceiving, naming, and responding to it," writes Charles
E. Rosenberg in his introduction to this stimulating set of essays.
Disease is both a biological and a social phenomenon. Patient,
doctor, family, and social institutions--including employers,
government, and insurance companies--all find ways to frame the
biological event in terms that make sense to them and serve their
own ends. Many diseases discussed here--endstage renal disease,
rheumatic fever, parasitic infectious diseases, coronary
thrombosis--came to be defined, redefined, and renamed over the
course of several centuries. As these essays show, the concept of
disease has also been used to frame culturally resonant behaviors:
suicide, homosexuality, anorexia nervosa, chronic fatigue syndrome.
Disease is also framed by public policy, as the cases of industrial
disability and forensic psychiatry demonstrate. Medicl
institutions, as managers of people with disease, come to have
vested interests in diagnoses, as the histories of facilities to
treat tuberculosis or epilepsy reveal. Ultimately, the existence
and conquest of disease serve to frame a society's sense of its own
"healthiness" and to give direction to social reforms. The
contributors include Steven J. Peitzman, Peter C. English, John
Farley, Christopher Lawrence, Michael Macdonald, Bert Hansen, Joan
Jacobs Brumberg, Robert A. Aronowitz, Gerald Markowitz, David
Rosner, Janet A. Tighe, Barbara Bates, Ellen Dwyer, John M. Eyler,
and Elizabeth Fee. Charles Rosenberg is Janice and Julian Bers
Professor of the History of Science at the University of
Pennsylvania. Janet Golden is an assistant professor of history at
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