Foreword Reviews

Sickening

Anti-Black Racism and Health Disparities in the United States

“Health is a capacious category, inextricable from the entire social world,” says Anne Pollock in Sickening, about how societies’ intricacies and ills are reflected back in the ways health is conceptualized, stratified, and addressed. A crucial guided analysis of anti-Blackness and its impact on Black people’s ability to live as fully entitled citizens, Pollock’s scholarship is essential medicine for a society in denial about its sickness.

An interdisciplinary scholar of science, technology, and society, Pollock uses Foucauldian biopolitics as a critical framework, asserting that the “state is involved in setting up relations in which some bodies’ flourishing is fostered, and other bodies are relegated to conditions of suffering and death.” When it comes to contemporary racialized healthcare, it’s the “slowness and relative invisibility of these kinds of harms [that] pose challenges for contestation.”

Sickening does an excellent job of making that invisibility manifest through its six chapter-long case studies. All of the cases are from the last twenty years, and they include anthrax deaths in the US Postal Service, Hurricane Katrina, the Scott sisters’ incarceration, police brutality against Dajerria Becton, the Flint water crisis, and Serena Williams’s birth narrative. In her conclusion, Pollock links these examples to the summer of 2020 and its twinned landmarks: Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests. Intentional in her case selection, Pollock’s contemporary events counteract the false sense that health inequality is located in the past.

“Simultaneously urgent and slow” enough to present these complex issues in easily comprehensible parts, Sickening is an accessible study with wide crossover appeal for both classrooms and general interest audiences. Moreover, the book is a reminder that “our analysis should begin with the outrage at these events and their ubiquity; it should not end there.”

Reviewed by Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the publisher for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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