The Body Multiple

Ontology in Medical Practice

The Body Multiple

Science and Cultural Theory

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Book Pages: 216 Illustrations: 4 b&w photos Published: January 2003

Author: Annemarie Mol

Anthropology > Medical Anthropology, Medicine and Health > Medical Humanities, Science and Technology Studies

The Body Multiple is an extraordinary ethnography of an ordinary disease. Drawing on fieldwork in a Dutch university hospital, Annemarie Mol looks at the day-to-day diagnosis and treatment of atherosclerosis. A patient information leaflet might describe atherosclerosis as the gradual obstruction of the arteries, but in hospital practice this one medical condition appears to be many other things. From one moment, place, apparatus, specialty, or treatment, to the next, a slightly different “atherosclerosis” is being discussed, measured, observed, or stripped away. This multiplicity does not imply fragmentation; instead, the disease is made to cohere through a range of tactics including transporting forms and files, making images, holding case conferences, and conducting doctor-patient conversations.

The Body Multiple juxtaposes two distinct texts. Alongside Mol’s analysis of her ethnographic material—interviews with doctors and patients and observations of medical examinations, consultations, and operations—runs a parallel text in which she reflects on the relevant literature. Mol draws on medical anthropology, sociology, feminist theory, philosophy, and science and technology studies to reframe such issues as the disease-illness distinction, subject-object relations, boundaries, difference, situatedness, and ontology. In dialogue with one another, Mol’s two texts meditate on the multiplicity of reality-in-practice.

Presenting philosophical reflections on the body and medical practice through vivid storytelling, The Body Multiple will be important to those in medical anthropology, philosophy, and the social study of science, technology, and medicine.


“[Mol’s book] seems to open up the possibility of a more productive and engaged relationship between ethics, social science and medical science and practice.” — Michael Parker , Biosocieties

"The Body Multiple pushes far beyond a historical project aimed at unmaking the science of a disease. Annemarie Mol offers a sharp rendering of experience and knowledge in relation to illness and the production of medical science as the site of meaning. The book is one that should be returned to often." — Todd Meyers , Medical Anthropology Quarterly

"[R]emarkable. . . . [Mol's] new book is brilliant, wonderfully polyglot, insightful, humorous, and bold, almost but not quite to the point of outrageous. . . . [H]er refreshing new book is an original 'object'-a creation that deserves a prominent place as a cornerstone in the canon of medical epistemology." — Jacalyn Duffin, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences

"The Body Multiple is my nominee for defining medical sociology in the 21st century. . . . [E]ngaging. . . . Awards committees should take notice of this major contribution." — Arthur W. Frank, American Journal of Sociology

The Body Multiple is a magnificent achievement. Annemarie Mol deftly reveals in compelling language how ontologies are not transcendent but are brought about in practice. Focusing on the body and disease, her ethnography of the manipulation of knowledge, and not the objects of knowledge, forces us to comprehend reality as multiple. This book will, without doubt, move the philosophy and anthropology of medicine to new heights.” — Margaret Lock, McGill University

The Body Multiple is compelling, wonderfully and sometimes slyly well-written, and full of innovative insights into ‘actually existing medical practice.’ Mol’s parallel text is well-placed intellectually in relation to her primary research text on atherosclerosis, and it provides a powerful teaching tool on how to think through and with science studies literatures when conducting an empirical project.” — Rayna Rapp, New York University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Annemarie Mol is Socrates Professor of Political Theory at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. She is coeditor of Differences in Medicine: Unraveling Practices, Techniques, and Bodies and Complexities: Social Studies of Knowledge Practices, both published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface vii

1. Doing Disease 1

2. Different Atheroscleroses 29

3. Coordination 53

4. Distribution 87

5. Inclusion 119

6. Doing Theory 151

Bibliography 185

Index 191

Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Winner, 2004 Ludwig Fleck Award, Society for the Social Studies of Science

Winner, Sociology of Health & Illness Book Prize, (British Sociological Association’s Medical Sociology work group)

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2917-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2902-2
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