Date of Award

8-2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

Anthropology

Major Professor

Gregory V. Button

Committee Members

Tricia Hepner, Rebecca Klenk

Abstract

As a contested illness, breast cancer has mainstream and alternate narratives that vie to shape related scientific research and legislative policy. The mainstream breast cancer movement (MBCM) shapes the dominant discourse of breast cancer risk, prevention, and cure through the utilization of the conventional biomedical model of knowledge. The environmental breast cancer movement (EBCM) contests the mainstream breast cancer narrative because EBCM activists argue that it supports an unequal power dynamic and does not adequately reflect breast cancer risk and prevention. Through the incorporation of citizen science and the precautionary principle into breast cancer research and policy, EBCM activists reframe the mainstream breast cancer narrative. This thesis illustrates how the EBCM uses citizen science and the precautionary principle to reframe the risk narrative and the power dynamic found in the MBCM. Citizen science offers EBCM activists a method to collaborate with the scientific community and reframe the power dynamic found in the traditional biomedical model through the inclusion of lay knowledge. The precautionary principle provides EBCM activists with a model to redefine the role of uncertainty as a call to action for further scientific research and legislative regulation of toxic chemicals linked to breast cancer. The research findings demonstrate how alternate narratives like the EBCM reconstruct the power dynamic found in dominant illness narratives through the incorporation of public knowledge and the involvement of lay activists in scientific research and legislative policy. Phone interviews, archival materials, and scholarly literature were used in the research process.

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