Health, Medicine and Surveillance in the 21st Century

By the beginning of the 21st Century, Surveillance Studies are highlighting how contemporary surveillance is neither limited nor specific, in either scope or design (Lyon 2002). The digital revolution has taken mass surveillance from a possibility to a reality. From cradle to grave, the medical surveillance of the human body has, for many, taken on a routinization that has served to normalize the political anatomy of the body. Increased health surveillance, biotechnology and geneticisation (Lippman 1991), as well as anxieties caused by globalization (Kawachi and Gamala 2006), have contributed to the reinforcement and extension of the continuum between health, illness, and disease – in what some have described as a ‘dangerous future’ (Macintyre 1995; Brand 2005). The notion that mass surveillance as a practice or regime is something that is objectively imposed upon passive, medicalized bodies is challenged. Tulle-Winton (2000) argues that the dispersion of power necessarily contains the possibility of resistance. By this, he means that because individuals are all variably involved in his, or her, own regulation it is possible for people to resist the process. Indeed, over forty years ago, Roth (1963) argued that while the power to define markers of recovery from TB were located in the medical domain, patients did not act as passive bodies waiting for qualities to be awarded to them; rather they participated in the interpretation of signs and symptoms. Diagnosis has always contained a subtle blend of signs and symptoms repressed or exhibited when an individual engages in medical discourse and medical surveillance.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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