Book Series: Critical Approaches to Health

The Critical Approaches to Health series, produced in association with ISCHP, seeks to present critical, inter-disciplinary books that present psychological, social and cultural issues related to health. Each volume in the series takes a critical approach to a particular health issue or topic, and is written to have relevance for students and researchers across the social sciences, and for practitioners. The series is edited by Kerry Chamberlain and Antonia Lyons, and published by Routledge, in association with the International Society for Critical Health Psychology. ISCHP members receive a discount on the purchase price of books in the series.

Books published in the series so far:


Migration and Health: Critical Perspectives by Heide Castañeda

This book offers a radical rethinking of the field by unsettling conventional ideas of mobility and borders to highlight the ways in which they produce health inequalities. Covering a wide range of topics, the text provides insight through a critical lens, and proposes areas for intervention along with an added emphasis on the need for future research to address the health inequities that affect migrants. It illustrates how a critical perspective can deepen our understanding of the relationship between migration and health, which remains a defining global issue of our century.

The text employs a critical approach to examine the structural conditions of inequality and larger historical and political processes, recognizing that exclusionary bordering practices increasingly occur away from physical points of entry. It posits the concept of migration as complex, tangled and multi-directional and underscores how migrant vulnerability can shape the lives of people in wider communities. Furthermore, it acknowledges diverse and intersectional standpoints, as well as shifting spatial and temporal influences. Chapters include coverage of health in transit; healthcare access and utilization; clinical encounters; communicable disease; labor and occupational health; gender and sexuality; immigration enforcement, detention, deportation; and the effects of forced displacement on refugee and asylum-seeker health.


Rethinking Obesity: Critical Perspectives in Crisis Times by Lee F. Monaghan, Emma Rich and Andrea E. Bombak

Theoretically informed and empirically grounded, this book invites readers to reconsider the medical and public health framing of population weight (gain) as a massive global problem, epidemic or crisis. Attentive to social values, scientific uncertainty and possible harms, the book furthers critique of the weight-centred health paradigm and world war on obesity. Building upon existing international literature from critical weight studies, fat studies and critical obesity research, the book advances scholarship with reference to body politics and health policy, epidemiology and obesity science, media reporting and weight-related stigma. Recognising that declared public health crises may become layered and cascade through society, this book also includes timely research on the COVID-19 pandemic response amidst concerns about lockdown weight-gain, heightened risk of infection and death among people deemed overweight and obese.

Rethinking Obesity interrogates how social injustice is reproduced not only through cruelty but also seemingly benevolent representations, pedagogies and policies. Alternative approaches and action, ranging from weight-inclusive health paradigms to broader social change, are also considered when seeking to foster collective hope in crisis times. This is valuable reading for students and researchers in medical sociology, social and population health sciences, physical education, critical weight and fat studies, and the social dimensions of the body.


Selling Immunity: Self, Culture and Economy in Healthcare and Medicine by Mark Davis

Selling Immunity: Self, Culture and Economy in Healthcare and Medicine provides a groundbreaking study of the ways in which immunity shapes life. Through its up-to-date discussion of immunity cultures, alongside detailed real-world examples, the book demonstrates how immunity is enmeshed in concepts of possessive individualism, self-defence and health consumerism. 

The book explores the rich metaphorical powers of immunity and the life narratives it inspires with reference to the talk of scientists, immunology texts and popular science magazines. The author provides a detailed overview of the ways in which digital media can shape the immune self with reference to cultural and social theories, providing insight into how immunitary knowledge and products are consumed and the benefits and drawbacks this has for healthcare. The book considers the significance of immunity for individuals navigating the threats to health that arise with pandemics and superbugs, with a keen look into how these ideas surface in everyday life across the globe. Finally, the book also discusses economic bases of healthcare technologies bent towards the protection and restoration of immunity. 


Embodied Trauma and Healing: Critical Conversations on the Concept of Health by Anna Westin

What if philosophy could solve the psychological puzzle of trauma? Embodied Trauma and Healing argues just that, suggesting that one might be needed in order to understand the other. The book demonstrates how the body-mind problem that haunted Descartes was addressed by phenomenologists, whilst also proposing that the human experience is lived subjectively as embodied consciousness. 

Throughout this book, the author suggests that the phenomenological tools that are used to explore the body can also be an effective way to discuss the physical and mental aspects of embodied trauma. Drawing on the work of Paul Ricœur, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Emmanuel Lévinas, the book outlines a phenomenological approach to the embodied and relational subject. It offers a reading of embodied trauma that can connect it to wider conversations in psychological underpinnings of trauma through Peter Levine’s somatic research and Bessel van der Kolk’s embodied remembering. Connecting to the analytic tradition, the book suggests that phenomenology can unify both language-based and body-based therapeutic practice. It also presents a compelling discussion that ties the embodied experience of relation in trauma to the wider causal factors of social suffering and relational rupture, intergenerational trauma and the trauma of land, as informed by phenomenology.


Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Containing and Expanding Therapeutic Possibilities By Kevin Dew

This book is a sociological investigation of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in contemporary society, and an exploration of the forces throughout the globe, across different institutions, and within different therapeutic spaces, that constrain or foster alternative medicine.

Drawing on 30 years of research, the book identifies the trends in the use of CAM and explores the scientific, political and social challenges that CAM faces in relation to orthodox medicine. The author examines the varieties of CAM practices and how they manifest in different institutional spaces – including public inquiries, the orthodox medical practitioner’s consulting room, medical journals and the homes of those who use CAM. It also compares unorthodox practices in different geo-political settings, namely the global north and the global south.


Critical Ethnographic Perspectives on Medical Travel By Cecilia Vindrola Padros

By taking an ethnographic approach to medical travel, this important book uses critical perspectives to understand inequalities in healthcare access and delivery, including gender, class and ethnicity, and explore how these are negotiated. In this key text Vindrola- Padros presents a comprehensive overview of the work carried out on this topic to date, highlights the gaps that remain and suggests strategies for enriching medical travel research in the future.

Drawing from the author’s research on internal medical travel to access pediatric oncology treatment in Buenos Aires, Argentina and other research from across the globe, this book presents four dimensions of medical travel that can be explored through a critical (im)mobilities lens: infrastructures, differential mobility empowerments, culture and affective dimensions of care and travel. Vindrola-Padros encourages the reader to critically explore processes of medical travel by considering the structures that shape travel, individual capacities for travel, the role emotions play in decisions and experiences of movement and service delivery and the ways in which culture(s) influence both travel and care.


Health at Work: Critical Perspectives: By Leah Tomkins and Katrina Pritchard

Engaging with some of the most debated topics in contemporary organizations, Health at Work: Critical Perspectives presents a critical, contingent view of the healthy employee and the very notion of organizational health. Drawing on expressions such as ‘blowing a fuse’, ‘cracking under pressure’ or ‘health MOT’, this book suggests that meanings of workplace health vary depending on how we frame the underlying purpose and function of organization. 

Health at Work takes some of the most powerful and taken-for-granted discourses of organization and explores what each might mean for the construction of the healthy employee. Not only does it offer a fresh and challenging approach to the topic of health at work, it also examines several core topics at the heart of contemporary research and practice, including technology, innovation, ageing and emotions. This book makes a timely contribution to debates about well-being at work, relevant to practitioners, policy-makers and designers of workplace health interventions, as well as academics and students. This book will be illuminating reading for students and scholars across management studies, occupational health and organizational psychology.


Disability and Sexual Health: A Critical Exploration of Key Issues By Poul Rohleder, Stine Hellum Braathen and Mark Thomas Carew

Illustrated by research drawn from a range of international contexts, Disability and Sexual Health: A Critical Exploration of Key Issues is the first to examine this important but seldom acknowledged issue. The sexual lives of people with disabilities are rarely discussed. It is as if, because someone has a biological or psychological impairment, they do not exist as a sexual being. As such, many people with disabilities feel marginalised and powerless not only in their day-to-day lives, but also in their ability to form sexual relationships. A range of health issues are raised as a result. Disability and Sexual Health will be important reading for researchers and students in health psychology, critical psychology and the psychology of sexuality, gender, disability and nursing. It will also be of interest to professionals working with people with disabilities in health care and social work.


Postfeminism and Health: Critical Psychology and Media Perspectives By Sarah Riley, Adrienne Evans and Martine Robson

This groundbreaking book employs a transdisciplinary and poststructuralist methodology to develop the concept of ‘postfeminist healthism,’ a twenty-first-century understanding of women’s physical and mental health formed at the intersections of postfeminist sensibilities, neoliberal constructs of citizenship and the notion of health as an individual responsibility managed through consumption.

Postfeminist healthism is used in this book to explore seven topics where postfeminist sensibility has the most impact on women’s health: self-help, weight, surgical technologies, sex, pregnancy, responsibilities for others’ health and pro-anorexia communities. The book explores the ways in which the desire to be normal and live a good life is tied to expectations of ‘normal-perfection’ circulated across interpersonal interactions, media representations and expert discourses. It diagnoses postfeminist healthism as unhealthy for both those women who participate in it and those whom it excludes and considers how more positive directions may emerge.

By exploring the under-researched intersection of postfeminism and health studies, this book will be invaluable to researchers and students in psychology, gender and women’s studies, health research, media studies and sociology.

Winner of the British Psychology Society 2021 Book Award


Healthy Ageing: A Capability Approach to Inclusive Policy and Practice By Christine Stephens and Mary Breheny

What does it mean to age well? This important new book redefines what ‘successful’ ageing means, challenging the idea that physical health is the only criteria to gauge the ageing process and that an ageing population is necessarily a burden upon society.

Using Sen’s Capability Approach as a theoretical starting point Healthy Ageing: A Capability Approach to Inclusive Policy and Practice outlines a nuanced perspective that transcends the purely biomedical view, recognising ideas of resilience, as well as the experiences of older people themselves in determining what it means to age well. It builds to provide a comprehensive response to the overarching discourse that successful ageing is simply about eating well and exercising, acknowledging not only that older people are not always able to follow such advice, but also that well-being is mediated by factors beyond the physical.

In an era where ageing has become such an important topic for policy makers, this is a robust and timely response that examines what it means to live well as an older person. It will be hugely valuable not only for students of gerontology and social care, but also professionals working in the field.


Urban Poverty and Health Inequalities: A Relational Approach By Darrin Hodgetts and Ottilie Stolte

Urban Poverty and Health Inequalities documents how life has become increasingly insecure and stressful for growing numbers of people due to increased insecurities in employment, income and housing, rising living costs, and the retrenchment of welfare and social services. The book explores the role of history and media depictions of poverty and health inequalities in influencing the current situation. A central objective is to advance ways to understand and respond to urban poverty as a key social determinant of health. The authors pay particular attention to the ways in which punitive responses to urban poverty are further exacerbating the hardships faced by people living in urban poverty.

Looking at issues of class, age, gender, ethnic and disability-based inequalities, the book offers both critical theory and grounded solutions to enable those living in poverty to live healthier lives. The collateral damage resulting from current socio-economic arrangements reflects political choices regarding the distribution of resources in societies that needs to be challenged and changed. The authors attend to initiatives for change, offering practical responses to address urban poverty, including efforts to address wealth distribution, the potential of living wage and Universal Basic Income initiatives, social housing and anti-oppressive welfare systems.


A Critical Approach to Surrogacy: Reproductive Desires and Demands By Damien W Riggs and Clemence Due

This comprehensive text makes an important contribution to the study of surrogacy, developing a novel theoretical framework through which to understand the broader social contexts as well as individual decisions at play within surrogacy arrangements. Drawing on empirical research conducted by the authors and supplemented by secondary analyses of media, legislative and public accounts of surrogacy, the book engages with the key stakeholders involved in the practice of surrogacy. Specifically, it canvases the standpoints of women who act as surrogates, intending parents who commission surrogacy arrangements, children born through surrogacy, clinics that facilitate the arrangements, and politicians and journalists who engage with the topic.

Through a focus on capitalism as a means of orientating ourselves to the topic of surrogacy, the book highlights the vulnerabilities that potentially arise in the context of surrogacy, as well as the claims to agency invoked by some parties in order to mitigate vulnerability. In so doing, the book demonstrates that the psychology of surrogacy must be broadly understood as an orientation to particular ways of thinking about children, reproduction and economies of labour.


Digital Health: Critical and Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives By Deborah Lupton

The rise of digital health technologies is, for some, a panacea to many of the medical and public health challenges we face today. This is the first book to articulate a critical response to the techno-utopian and entrepreneurial vision of the digital health phenomenon. Deborah Lupton, internationally renowned for her scholarship on the sociocultural and political aspects of medicine and health as well as digital technologies, addresses a range of compelling issues about the interests digital health represents, and its unintended effects on patients, doctors and how we conceive of public health and healthcare delivery.

Bringing together social and cultural theory with empirical research, the book challenges apolitical approaches to examine the impact new technologies have on social justice, and the implication for social and economic inequalities. Lupton considers how self-tracking devices change the patient-doctor relationship, and how the digitisation and gamification of healthcare through apps and other software affects the way we perceive and respond to our bodies. She asks which commercial interests enable different groups to communicate more widely, and how the personal data generated from digital encounters are exploited. Considering the lived experience of digital health technologies, including their emotional and sensory dimensions, the book also assesses their broader impact on medical and public health knowledges, power relations and work practices.

Relevant to students and researchers interested in medicine and public health across sociology, psychology, anthropology, new media and cultural studies, as well as policy makers and professionals in the field, this is a timely contribution on an important issue. 


Constructing Pain: Historical, psychological and critical perspectives By Robert Kugelmann

Everyone experiences pain, whether it’s emotional or physical, chronic or acute. Pain is part of what it means to be human, and so an understanding of how we relate to it as individuals – as well as cultures and societies – is fundamental to who we are.

In this important new book, the first in Routledge’s new Critical Approaches to Health series, Robert Kugelmann provides an accessible and insightful overview of how the concept of pain has been understood historically, psychologically, and anthropologically. Charting changes in how, after the development of modern painkillers, pain became a problem that could be solved, the book articulates how the possibilities for living with pain have changed over the last two hundred years. 

Incorporating research conducted by the author himself, the book provides both a holistic conception of pain and an understanding of what it means to people experiencing it today. Including critical reflections in each chapter, Constructing Pain offers a comprehensive and enlightening treatment of an important issue to us all and will be fascinating reading for students and researchers within health psychology, healthcare, and nursing.