Deconstructing Fatalism: Ethnographic Perspectives on Women's Decision Making about Cancer Prevention and Treatment

Elaine M. Drew, Nancy E. Schoenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations

Abstract

Researchers have long held that fatalism (the belief in a lack of personal power or control over destiny or fate) constitutes a major barrier to participation in positive health behaviors and, subsequently, adversely affects health outcomes. In this article, we present two in-depth, ethnographic studies of rural women's health decisions surrounding cancer treatments to illustrate the complexity and contestability of the long-established fatalism construct. Narrative analyses suggest that for these women, numerous and complex factors-including inadequate access to health services, a legacy of self-reliance, insufficient privacy, combined with a culturally acceptable idiom of fatalism-foster the use of, but not necessarily a rigid conviction in, the notion of fatalism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-182
Number of pages19
JournalMedical Anthropology Quarterly
Volume25
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2011

Keywords

  • Appalachia
  • Cancer
  • Fatalism
  • Health decisions
  • Prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology

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