A historical discourse analysis of the cancerous and non-cancerous body in secondary biology textbooks

by Bowers, Neil Thomas.

Abstract (Summary)
A HISTORICAL DISCOURSE ANALYSIS OF THE CANCEROUS AND NON-CANCEROUS BODY IN SECONDARY BIOLOGY TEXTBOOKS By Neil Thomas Bowers This dissertation applies the archeological concepts developed by Michel Foucault to a study of thirteen biology textbooks (1993-2004) in order to develop an understanding of ‘purchased truths’ concerning cancer. This study focuses on the construction of the health/illness dialogue concerning cancer within the textbooks and not the meaning that the individual makes from reading the text; as such this study concerns itself with social truths rather than the search for an individual awareness of names, dates, or places. This study investigates the practices that allow the creation of dialogues that are inserted into a biology textbook and looks at how discursive formations create the ‘truth regime’ from which the biology textbook is said to speak. Using the Foucaultian themes of ‘event’, ‘emergence’, ‘enunciation’, and ‘exteriority’ a new reading of topics concerning cancer emerge from biology textbooks. Cancer is a disease that will impact the lives of countless individuals but coverage devoted to the pathology of cancer in secondary biology textbooks is very limited and no study textbook devoted a whole chapter to the discussion of cancer. There is an identified reduction in the number of pages and depth of coverage devoted to cancer in the newer biology texts compared to the older texts. Humans are pictured more than plants or animals in presentations concerning cancer with emphasis being placed on the digitalization of human cells via the scanning electron microscope. When the whole body is presented it is seldom located within the technology of disease diagnosis and treatment but rather is posed for specific social control. Just as each digitized picture of the cancerous cell in the texts is used to create a story so too are the pictures of the whole body in action. Possible story lines offered by the publishing houses concerning the reaction of the body to cancer are shown to intermingle with risk factor analysis to project a sense of Foucaultian ‘governmentality’ based on assumed control and self regulation by the informed reader. In conclusion a procedure is suggested to further analyze additional textbooks concerning biological/educational issues that have been recast as social problems. A Historical Discourse Analysis of the Cancerous and Non-Cancerous Body in Secondary Biology Textbooks A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of Miami University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of Educational Leadership By Neil Thomas Bowers Miami University Oxford, Ohio 2006 Dissertation Advisor: Dr. R. Hofmann c. Neil Thomas Bowers 2006
Bibliographical Information:


School:Miami University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:foucault archeology textbooks cancer governmentality biology


Date of Publication:

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