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The Ethnography of Health Inequality: Global Risk Society and Local Suffering


The delocalization aspects of globalization are often cited as the most socially and economically destructive of its forces. In this paper, I want to discuss the possibilities for ethnography to relocalize the global. In particular, I argue that the assessment of risks attached to numerous aspects of global enterprises pleads for the kind of recontextualization that ethnography can provide through tracing the contours of local and translocal suffering and illness on the one hand and mobilization of agency and resistance on the other. My discussion will touch down on the SARS epidemic and the health of transnational immigrant workers in the California agricultural industry. They provide two different windows on the value of risk as a lens for examining the role of transnational forces in the social production of health inequality.

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