Divided Bodies

Lyme Disease, Contested Illness, and Evidence-Based Medicine

Divided Bodies

Critical Global Health: Evidence, Efficacy, Ethnography

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Book Pages: 344 Illustrations: Published: September 2020

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

While many doctors claim that Lyme disease—a tickborne bacterial infection—is easily diagnosed and treated, other doctors and the patients they care for argue that it can persist beyond standard antibiotic treatment in the form of chronic Lyme disease. In Divided Bodies, Abigail A. Dumes offers an ethnographic exploration of the Lyme disease controversy that sheds light on the relationship between contested illness and evidence-based medicine in the United States. Drawing on fieldwork among Lyme patients, doctors, and scientists, Dumes formulates the notion of divided bodies: she argues that contested illnesses are disorders characterized by the division of bodies of thought and in which the patient's experience is often in conflict with how it is perceived. Dumes also shows how evidence-based medicine has paradoxically amplified differences in practice and opinion by providing a platform of legitimacy on which interested parties—patients, doctors, scientists, politicians—can make claims to medical truth.


“This exceptional book takes readers into the heart of an important medical controversy about the very nature of Lyme disease. Sensitively portraying the struggles of Lyme sufferers, as well as the divided opinions of the clinicians who care for them, this book demonstrates how evidence-based medicine may not reflect the social complexities of a deeply contested illness. A must-read for scholars of American health and medicine and for anyone interested in the growing Lyme disease epidemic.” — Marcia C. Inhorn, Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs, Yale University

“Abigail A. Dumes persuasively makes the case that ‘Lyme disease is one of the nation's most controversial medical issues,’ leading readers to care about it and about the people who are deeply invested in both sides of the debate. Divided Bodies is exceptionally well-written and informed by incredibly rigorous research.” — Alissa Cordner, author of Toxic Safety: Flame Retardants, Chemical Controversies, and Environmental Health


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Open Access

Spring 2020 Sale
Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Abigail A. Dumes is Assistant Professor of Women's Studies at the University of Michigan.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Table of Contents Forthcoming
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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0666-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0598-8