State of Health

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

2019 | University of California Press

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State of Health is a compelling ethnography on the interconnections among health care systems, pleasure, and radical politics during Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution… Using a well-developed conceptualization of pleasure that encompasses biophysical health, sensual and social pleasure, and sociopolitical empowerment, State of Health offers critical insights into how poor and working-class Venezuelans experienced the Chávez years… State of Health will appeal to a broad readership interested in Latin America, health care, radical politics, and the anthropology of affect and would be an excellent choice for undergraduate and graduate courses.” – American Ethnologist

State of Health is an engaging and insightful ethnography of health care provision in Venezuela under Chávez. By centering the role of pleasure, it invites us to rethink our frameworks for analyzing medical care. The book is written in a clear and accessible style, and, as such, it can be read at a variety of levels… This book should be required reading for anyone hoping to learn more about social medicine in Latin America.” – Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

“State of Health: Pleasure and Politics in Venezuelan Health Care under Chávez is an accessible, eminently teachable book set in Venezuela at the height of the Bolivarian revolution… In contrast to many Latin American medical ethnographies that document the distrust and suffering wrought by state-sponsored medicine, Cooper proposes that “joy, excitement, and satisfaction were central to people’s experiences of Barrio Adentro.” The idea that medical care can be pleasurable is powerful in its simplicity.” – Medical Anthropology Quarterly

“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

“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

“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 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… Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.” – 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 a Zoom discussion with your class.

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