Illness is a Weapon: Indigenous Identity and Endurng Afflictions

Eirik Saethre
Illness is a Weapon: Indigenous Identity and Endurng Afflictions (2013, Vanderbilt University Press)

Illness Is a Weapon presents an engaging portrayal of the everyday experience of disease in a remote Australian Aboriginal community. While chronic Aboriginal ill health has become an important national issue in Australia, Saethre breaks new ground by locating sickness within the daily lives of Indigenous people. Drawing on more than a decade of ethnographic research in the Northern Territory, Saethre explores the factors structuring ill health, the tactics individuals use to negotiate these realities, and the ways in which disease and medical narratives are employed to construct, manage, and challenge social relations. Reframing current debates, this book argues that disease and suffering have become powerful expressions of Indigenous identity. Through dialogues and interactions, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people engage in a reciprocal discussion about the past, present, and future of indigeneity. Rarely are disease and suffering understood as a form of protest, and in Illness Is a Weapon, Saethre confronts the stark reality of the current contest between all parties in this struggle. As Saethre explains, "Cursing at nurses, refusing to take medication, and accepting acute illness as unremarkable are simultaneously acts of defiance and rejections of vulnerability."

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