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Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) Conference

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference -Mixed Audience


This paper examines the construction and configuration of cancer through the figure of the cancer micro-celebrity, exploring how social media influencers enact particular framings or figurations of the ideal cancer patient/consumer.

The influence of celebrity on everyday lives is classed, gendered, racialised and taps into neo-liberal demands to produce oneself as a subject of ‘value’. Within cancer celebrity cultures, the specific enactments of cancer, via stories shared, are embedded in a culture of vitality and optimism, linked to monetization and biopolitical processes. Legitimate patienthood is increasingly intertwined with being able to transgress illness, obscuring/sublimating other lived experiences of cancer that are less optimistic, less coherent, less normative, and less media-savvy. Even with the detailed descriptions of very challenging treatment effects, there is a performativity that exudes whiteness, heterosexuality, choice, autonomy, consumerism and aesthetic perfection.

Through a figurative analysis of the cancer micro-celebrity, we trace the enactment of cancer experiences as constituted in and through specific social, cultural and economic contexts, paying attention to how multi-layered structural inequalities and their intersections configure and interact in these sociocultural depictions of cancer experience. Finally, we critically reflect on the implications of such enactments for the embodied and situated experiences of people living with or caring for someone with cancer, cancer-clinicians or those yet to be diagnosed with cancer.

Event (Conference)

TitleSociety for the Social Studies of Science (4S) Conference