Risk and the Body in Public Health

Friday, 20 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Debra KRIGER, University of Toronto, Canada
Work in public health relies on the concept of health risk, but how do folks understand what ‘risk’ means? This project takes a poststructuralist, critical qualitative approach to health research, combining theory from physical cultural studies, public health, and the sociology of health to solicit peoples’ stories about how they understand embodied health and risk. Through sculpting, life-lining (an innovative method), and interviews, 13 participants shared their understandings of the relationship between the past, present, and future body in the context of health. Folks expressed their ideas of normality and interacted with experiences of social position, power structures, and public health discourses. Participants spoke about what sorts of actions in the past affected a body’s present and future, and how; including discussions of how concepts such as 'luck', 'fate', 'control' or 'randomness' factor in. Participants also shared how they make sense of the uncertainty and unpredictability of ‘health’, and spoke of ‘risk’ as a heuristic for simplicity. This project directly addresses what risk means to people as part of embodiment and health, and expands on ideas of risk through researching our experiences of the body as a present, physical mediator between an ever-changing past and an uncertain future.