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Department of Social Anthropology


Symposium - Ethnographies of disease stratification: Understanding novel clinical practices and their social consequences in contemporary cancer care

The biomedical ability to detect specific molecular features of tumours is driving clinical innovation towards more precise diagnoses and more effective treatments by way of “stratification”—that is, the process of dividing oncology populations into clinically meaningful subtypes based on molecular biomarkers. These innovations inspire new hopes for more effective and targeted treatments with fewer side effects. However, they also provoke major dilemmas around individual and population-wide treatment decisions, equity of treatment access, and the social formations of care. Current approaches in cancer care thus re-articulate forms of biological and social stratification, with important implications for patient experience and biomedical knowledge.

This one day symposium brings together scholars from a range of social science disciplines to consider the social consequences of these innovations across a number of different sites around the world. Presentations will reflect on the ways in which contemporary oncology is becoming reconfigured at various levels by the practices of disease stratification and its promise of improved health outcomes for those affected by cancer. Further discussions throughout the day will be led by senior academics with expertise in historical and anthropological approaches to cancer.

The event is free, but tickets must be booked in advance through Eventbrite. Limited bursaries are available for post-graduate students travelling from within the UK. Please contact us directly to request a bursary, outlining your research interest and approximate travel costs. Lunch and refreshments will be provided throughout the day.

This event is supported by the Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness. For further information or to request a bursary, please contact Ignacia Arteaga. at

Friday, 12 April, 2019 - 10:00 to 16:00
Event location: 
Edmund Leach Room, Department of Social Anthropology Free School Lane, Cambridge