State of Health

9780520299290_comp_proofState of Health: Pleasure and Politics in Venezuelan Health Care under Chávez

2019 | University of California Press

Download the First Chapter for Free Here.

For a 30% discount from UC Press website: Use source code 17M6662 at checkout



Book review in Medical Anthropology Quarterly

“State of Health offers a brilliant contribution to the timely question of what constitutes good health care and, in doing so, expands how we understand the power of medicine.”—Emily Yates-Doerr, author of The Weight of Obesity: Hunger and Global Health in Postwar Guatemala

“This book brilliantly captures a historical moment in the early years of Venezuela’s implementation of Barrio Adentro, a state-sponsored program of social medicine. Cooper deftly theorizes how medicine can serve as a source of pleasure, as a therapeutic tool to redress social and political inequality, and as a technology of social justice to empower disenfranchised communities.”—P. Sean Brotherton, author of Revolutionary Medicine: Health and the Body in Post-Soviet Cuba

“A refreshing and ethnographically intimate account of one of the most creative experiments in health care of our time. State of Health itself exudes the pleasure expressed by patients and volunteers when care becomes a key locus for embodying equality and solidarity.”––Charles L. Briggs, coauthor of Tell Me Why My Children Died

“Given the current polarized situation in Venezuela, medical anthropologist Amy Cooper provides important and compelling insights into how ordinary people experienced policy changes during Hugo Chávez’s progressive government (1999–2013). Due to extreme social inequalities, previously healthcare had been largely restricted to those with wealth, power, and privilege. While Venezuela enjoyed a world-class plastic surgery industry, people in poor and marginalized neighborhoods rarely if ever saw a doctor. To correct that injustice, Chávez launched his most famous and successful social program: Barrio Adentro or “Into the neighborhood,” a project to introduce free and universal access to healthcare. This book really shines in its ethnographic exploration of how historically disempowered Venezuelans—poor people, people of color, and women—the vast majority of the country’s population, experienced the healthcare system. In listening to people’s stories, Cooper gained innovative insights into how government programs can provide a mechanism for social inclusion and empowerment, including how those institutions transform people’s sense of themselves. Nicely complements other works that provide a bottom-up perspective on recent political developments in Venezuela, including Gregory Wilpert’s Changing Venezuela by Taking Power (Verso, 2007) and George Ciccariello-Maher’s We Created Chávez (Duke, 2013).”––Choice


About the Book:

State of Health takes readers inside one of the most controversial regimes of the twenty-first century—Venezuela under Hugo Chávez—for a revealing description of how people’s lives changed for the better as the state began reorganizing society. With lively and accessible storytelling, Amy Cooper chronicles the pleasure people experienced accessing government health care and improving their quality of life. From personalized doctor’s visits to therapeutic dance classes, new health care programs provided more than medical services. State of Health offers a unique perspective on the significance of the Bolivarian Revolution for ordinary people, demonstrating how the transformed health system succeeded in exciting people and recognizing historically marginalized Venezuelans as bodies who mattered.


Are you considering State of Health for course adoption? Get in touch! I would be excited to discuss options to directly support student learning, such as Skypeing into your classroom.