Second ISA Forum of Sociology, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1-4 August 2012

Research Committee on
Sociology of Health, RC15

  on-line programme

Programme Coordinator

Ivy BOURGEAULT, University of Ottawa, Canada,

RC15 Liaison in Argentina
Ana Duro, Asociación Argentina de Sociología,

Volunteer at the venue
Martina Baglietto,


All Forum participants (presenters, chairs, discussants, etc.) need to pay the early registration fee by April 10, 2012, in order to be included in the programme. If not registered, their names will not appear in the Programme or Abstracts Book.


provisional as of March 15, 2012, in alphabetical order


Exploring boundaries of pathology and normality, bodies and minds following the emergence of the new neurosciences: Sociological challenges

In this session we aim at exploring theoretically, analytically and empirically the changing boundaries of the social and the biological, the normal and the pathological with a specific focus on questions around bodies, brains and minds in the context of the explosion of neuroscience research and knowledge production.

The neurosciences are changing and informing understandings of not the least psychiatric disorders but also of brain diseases as Alzheimer’s, and diseases as stroke. Imaging technologies here plays a central role, promising revelations of the workings of the brain, not the least of emotions, rationality and subjectivity. In this session we will from a sociological perspective explore the knowledge production and new practices following from neuroscience approaches, its uses in medicine as well as the experiences of patients in these fields.

We encourage the participants to use and expand newer theoretical strands to grapple with the elusive distinctions between mind and body, inner and outer. For example Nikolas Rose’s conceptualization of the neurochemical self, Elizabeth Wilson’s effort to link brain, emotions and bodies, and other central interventions theorizing useful in understanding challenges of neuroscience. We are also interested in exploring how these can be linked to the tendency in medicine to make disease biological and causal, as well as medicines increased reliance on evidence based medicine (EBM).


Health care choice: Discourses, perceptions and experiences

The notion of choice is at the heart of neoliberalism, which has driven much health system reform over recent decades. Under neoliberalism, choice is promoted as valuable in itself, and it is taken for granted that individuals are rational actors who can and do exercise choice on the basis of calculations designed to maximise self-interest and minimise loss. Health care users may be invited or obliged to exercise choice in engaging with health care systems: public or private facilities; practitioners (which type and which one); multiple treatment options (including surgical procedures, over-the-counter medications, complementary therapies); treatment domestically or abroad. However, the nature of health care choice is entwined with questions about access to information, competing evidences, the role of trust and responsibility, and different capacities to choose.

This session invites empirical and conceptual papers about discourses, perceptions and/or experiences of health care choice. Within particular health care systems and contexts, they may address questions including: How are health care choices constructed and enscribed in policy, marketing and professional discourses? What choices do patients perceive as available to them, and to what extent do they value choice? What information and resources, including advice from health professionals, do health service users draw upon in making particular health care choices? How can sociology explain the differential capacity to choose? And what is the relationship between discourses, perceptions and experiences of health care choice?


Health Inequalities Across European Health Systems

Health inequalities are an important concern in our society and are a crucial issue with which healthcare systems and healthcare policies are confronted. For this reason, it becomes increasingly important to understand how this issue of inequality is addressed by different health policies and by health systems, both with regard to their national character with the potential and regional particularities, both at European level. European health systems are well established and we are witnessing a degree of convergence between them. Nevertheless, health inequalities persist and, as some studies confirm, in some groups of population are increasing. The questions that we ask for this session are: whether, how and what extent health systems affect health inequalities and what to do to overcome in terms of policy.

The aim of this session is to understand whether different healthcare systems produce inequalities which type if any and through which mechanisms. This session will discuss and analyze the evolution of European health systems, the presence of health inequalities, preferably using a comparative approach.


Medications and pharmaceuticalization: Continuity and change

Pharmaceuticalization is starting to play an important role in attempts to develop a new sociological understanding of health in everyday life, particularly in relation to health improvement, the management of well-being, and also cognitive and body enhancement. However, there remains a need for a deeper exploration of the nature and social implications of changes taking place in this domain.

What kinds of medication – pharmaceuticals and/or natural products – are being consumed to maintain or enhance people’s health, what social processes are involved and what rationales are invoked? In what sense does pharmaceuticalization constitute a pivotal concept to capture the changes occurring in the expansion of lay therapeutic investments? How globalised is the current pharmaceuticalization of daily life? Do old or new forms of resistance to the consumption of such medications subsist or emerge? And how local are these forms of resistance? What role does the media and patient groups play in pharmaceuticalization?

All these questions require theoretical discussion and reflection among sociologists interested in research on health and social change. An initial discussion around these themes has already begun, including at the last ISA Congress, where for the first time, a thematic session on medications was organized, thereby underscoring the growing relevance of this subject for the sociology of health. For this session, papers based on theoretically informed empirical studies , as well as theoretical and/or methodological discussions on this subject matter are welcome.


Men and reproduction

Internationally, many societies are experiencing a cultural transformation of fatherhood towards the contemporary ideal of the involved nurturing father with the expectation of men’s involvement across the reproductive trajectory from reproductive planning to equal co-parenting. This cultural momentum is also being `pushed’ internationally through government policies based on the perceived economic, health and well-being benefits of fatherhood involvement in children’s lives. In academic research, the application of Critical Studies of Men and Masculinities to the sociology of human reproduction, provides an added impetus to the re-conceptualisation of reproduction in inter-relational terms (rather than as ‘women’s difficulty’), and attempts to empirically and critically explore men’s involvement in reproduction.

This debate on men and reproduction links to the themes of this ISA Forum in that it mirrors the broader sociological debate relating to the rhetoric and reality of the democratisation of gender relations in the intimate sphere and the emergence of relationships that are more equally and mutually satisfying. In addition, the debate is often framed in terms of ‘social justice’ for fathers in societies which prioritise mothers over fathers as the socially accepted best carers of children.

Papers will critically explore men’s involvement within the reproduction/parenting arena. In particular, papers may focus on men’s involvement in reproductive planning/the procreative realm. Topics of papers might include (but are not limited to): men going through ART procedures, pregnancy resolution decision-making, men’s responses to sonograms, men’s involvement in childbirth preparation classes, men’s fertility attitudes, gay men’s desires to have a child.


Men's health: Intersections between culture and science


Obesity: A 21st century plague?

In 2002, the World Health Organization described obesity as a global pandemic. A few years later, fat was described as “the new tobacco.” For the population and for governments and health care systems, obesity has become “the” challenge of the 21st century. Changes in dietary practices and sedentary lifestyles are no longer found only in developed nations; they are increasingly common in developing countries. And with these lifestyle changes, public health authorities worry, is a tsumani of chronic disease, disability, and premature mortality, not to mention increased costs to the health care system.

This session explores the new public health challenge of obesity. In keeping with the overall conference theme on social justice and democratization, papers that specifically address these dimensions of obesity are particularly welcome. As well, papers are invited that explore that social, historical, political, and economic dimensions of the “obesity epidemic,” and cover issues including, but not limited to:


Professional governance and health human resource management: The challenges of equality, diversity and inclusion. Part I

Joint session of RC15 Sociology of Health and RC52 Sociology of Professional Groups [host committee]
The professions are the backbone of the healthcare system and key to sustainable healthcare services for all citizens. Yet the governance of the professional workforce faces a number of challenges. On top of this, shortage and inefficient use of health human resources together with changes in the composition of the professional workforce by age, gender and citizenship create an urgent need for policy interventions. Within this scenario the health professions gain significance not only as an `object` and problem of governance, but also as a source of innovation and a facilitator of change in the healthcare sector.

This session brings together two strands of the debates: the governance of the health professional workforce and the management, planning and policy of health human resources. We seek to explore, among other things, whether and how a more diverse and integrated professional workforce, including gender equality, may contribute to more sustainable healthcare services that, in turn, improve social justice.


Professional governance and health human resource management: The challenges of equality, diversity and inclusion. Part II

Joint session of RC15 Sociology of Health [host committee] and RC52 Sociology of Professional Groups


RC15 Business Meeting


Sociology of complementary and alternative medicine. Part I


Sociology of complementary and alternative medicine. Part II


Sociology of health and health care


The health workforce governance continuum: Good professionals, safer patients and the right to health care

This session welcomes sociological work that addresses the health workforce governance continuum at local, regional, national and international levels. The traditional “closed regulatory world” (Moran 1999) of health workforce governance is challenged by both globalisation and the international market in health professionals, and increasing appreciation that while governance of the health workforce raises some specialist issues, it does not sit apart from broader governance related trends and broader workforce related issues.

In the integrated governance continuum, issues of training, accreditation and the quality of health professionals (good professionals) merge with concerns about regulation and patient safety (safer patients), and ensuring that structures, policies and funding systems are participatory, accountable, transparent, fair and just, guaranteeing the universal right to health care (right to health care). The challenge faced by planners and regulators is to create integrated governance strategies that balance these concerns and which take into account the impact of an increasingly globalised world.

The effectiveness of our health systems depends to a large degree upon the workforce that provides health services but this raises some important questions. Where does health workforce regulation fit in relation to government ambitions as a whole? How can we most effectively integrate the consequences of globalization into health workforce governance? Do our systems have the coherence they need to ensure improved access, good governance practices and safer patients? How can existing models of governance be modified and developed to serve professions and the public?


The role of the 'Third Sector' in health care reforms


The transformation of lives: Making up people through biotechnologies

This session aims to explore the role biotechnologies (stem cells, smart drugs, life-style drugs, etc.) play in the transformation of bodies and the creation of what Clark et al. (2010) have called `technoscientific identities`. In fact, concepts such as biosociality (Rabinow, 1996), biological citizenship (Petryna, 2002) and neurochemical citizenship (Rose, 2007) capture a reshaping of collective and individual identities through somatic and physical attributes individuals share and around which they get mobilized, and in which technoscientific interventions increasingly play a central role.

Biotechnologies entail the possibility of redefining and extending human limits; they are thus involved in the reconfiguration of the borders between health and illness and between nature and culture (for instance through `cosmetic neurology` [Cakic, 2009]). And while a number of social scientists have written about new forms of sociality, few studies look in detail at the role biotechnologies play in `making up people` or biosocialization. The interplay of highly specialized knowledge, its translation into health-related practices - including hype, hope and uncertainty - the effect these practices have on people`s notion of self and other, and how people in turn influence issues regarding the standardization and classification of biological facts - are only some of the elements that play a role in technoscientific identities.

For this session, papers based on theoretically informed empirical studies on this subject matter are welcome


Towards better healthcare for all: What matters in the transformation of healthcare systems and policy. Part I

Joint session of RC15 Sociology of Health [host committee] and RC19 Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy
Better healthcare for all citizens is a key strategy to fight social inequality and poverty and high on the agenda of policy-makers across the globe. Besides many differences, emergent healthcare systems in the southern and eastern hemisphere as well as established welfare states in the west all seek to improve the organisation, delivery and accessibility of healthcare and the management of professionals and services. For these processes social responsibility and public sector services have been proved to be crucial for the health of the population, but markets and management enjoy high currency in the current climate of financial restrictions.

In our session we plan to provide a platform for discussing the following questions: How to get health reform right, and how to balance public responsibility for healthcare and markets? How to balance global challenges and local needs and demand? What can be learned from local solutions to global pressures? What to learn from international experiences, especially taking into account transformations and emergent healthcare systems in the Americas and other regions of the world that are broadly neglected in comparative health policy. We invite papers that explore these issues either across nations and regions or in a single country.


Towards better healthcare for all: What matters in the transformation of healthcare systems and policy. Part II

Joint session of RC15 Sociology of Health and RC19 Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy [host committee]


Towards better healthcare for all: What matters in the transformation of healthcare systems and policy. Part III

Joint session of RC15 Sociology of Health and RC19 Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy [host committee]


Towards better healthcare for all: What matters in the transformation of healthcare systems and policy. Part IV

Joint session of RC15 Sociology of Health [host committee] and RC19 Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy




isa logo
International Sociological Association
November 2012