The two bodies of the cancer patient: Cancer politics, testimony, and asymmetrical knowledge

By Gilles Raveneau


The development of biomedicine and its growing influence are a fundamental part of a new culture of self that places the body at the center of its concerns and that transforms the meaning assigned to being a cancer patient. Medicine has to deal not only with sick people but those in good health too, developing a probabilistic discourse regarding the risk of cancer, thereby increasing the number of people living with the fear of a malignant tumor. Under these conditions, it becomes difficult for people to escape biomedical authority. This new approach, between the personal and the political, produces two conceptions of the body: The first is sensitive, attached to the real-life, first-hand experience of cancer; the second is abstract, linked to the rise of technoscience in biomedicine, and involves the living body as it is instrumentalized by medicine. This article questions this splitting into two, hypothesizing that the connection between the two bodies is largely deficient and requires forms of mutual ignorance.


  • cancer
  • body
  • predictive medicine
  • technoscience
  • testimony
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