Collective Biologies

Healing Social Ills through Sexual Health Research in Mexico

Collective Biologies

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: Published: November 2021

Anthropology > Medical Anthropology, Latin American Studies > Mexico, Medicine and Health

In Collective Biologies, Emily A. Wentzell uses sexual health research participation as a case study for investigating the use of individual health behaviors to aid groups facing crisis and change. Wentzell analyzes couples' experiences of a longitudinal study of HPV occurrence in men in Cuernavaca, Mexico. She observes how their experiences reflected Mexican cultural understandings of group belonging through categories like family and race. For instance, partners drew on collective rather than individualistic understandings of biology to hope that men's performance of “modern” masculinities, marriage, and healthcare via HPV research would aid groups ranging from church congregations to the Mexican populace. Thus, Wentzell challenges the common regulatory view of medical research participation as an individual pursuit. Instead, she demonstrates that medical research is a daily life arena which people might use for fixing embodied societal problems. By identifying forms of group interconnectedness as “collective biologies,” Wentzell investigates how people can use their own actions to enhance collective health and well-being in ways that neoliberal emphasis on individuality obscure.


Collective Biologies is an engaging, theoretically astute, and crisply written ethnography of research participation and shifting notions of gender and modernity in Mexico. Emily A. Wentzell captures a sense of the way biomedical research increasingly becomes enfolded into the experiences and projects of everyday life and particular understandings and aspirations of modernity in a way that is also both emergent and urgent to understand. Her thoughtful, accessible, and illuminating examination makes crucial contributions to scholarship in science studies, medical anthropology, and Latin American studies.” — Megan Crowley-Matoka, author of Domesticating Organ Transplant: Familial Sacrifice and National Aspiration in Mexico

“Emily A. Wentzell's study challenges medicine's conception of ‘the body’ as a discrete entity and the way medical testing is done and the results understood. It is an excellent contribution to both medical anthropology and to public health.” — Laura A. Lewis, author of Chocolate and Corn Flour: History, Race, and Place in the Making of “Black” Mexico


Availability: Not in Stock
Price: $24.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Emily A. Wentzell is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Iowa, author of Maturing Masculinities: Aging, Chronic Illness, and Viagra in Mexico, and coeditor of Medical Anthropology at the Intersections: Histories, Activisms, and Futures, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Table of Contents Forthcoming
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1488-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1394-5