“Biomedicine, ‘Body-Writing,’ and Identity Management: The Case of Christian Science”
Nelson, Tayler L. “Biomedicine, ‘Body-Writing,’ and Identity Management: The Case of Christian Science.” MA Thesis, Boston College, 2011.
Nelson argues that although biomedicine saves lives, it is also a growing social power that can fragment and isolate patients, silence their voices and “garner an impressive amount of control over body-writing processes…” (3)—body-writing being the way our bodies, and thus our identities, are defined, and by whom. Through interviews with twelve Christian Scientists, and accessing the writings of social theorists such as Michel Foucault, Nelson argues that Christian Scientists systematically “reinterpret and rewrite biomedical discourse to reclaim interpretive rights over their bodies and create spiritual connection to other bodies and to God” (2). Nelson begins with an introduction to Christian Science theology and its healing system followed by a defining of what she means by the biomedical body. She then shows how the ‘Christian Science body’ represents a rewriting of the biomedical discourse thereby becoming a site for the demonstration of healing, and the reaffirmation and building of Christian Science identity. Specifically, she examines how Christian Science can help its members “navigate the fearful [medical] environment of late modernity” (91) through resistance of external authorities, and with daily prayer and the nourishing of spiritual community. Thus, the body itself becomes a “visible site of power” (93). She also examines the conflict in identity when a Christian Science adherent chooses biomedical treatment.