Biomedicalization and the Practice of Culture

Globalization and Type 2 Diabetes in the United States and Japan

By Mari Armstrong-Hough

186 pp., 6.125 x 9.25

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4668-8
    Published: December 2018
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-4667-1
    Published: December 2018
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-4669-5
    Published: November 2018

Studies in Social Medicine

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit
Over the last twenty years, type 2 diabetes skyrocketed to the forefront of global public health concern. In this book, Mari Armstrong-Hough examines the rise in and response to the disease in two societies: the United States and Japan. Both societies have faced rising rates of diabetes, but their social and biomedical responses to its ascendance have diverged. To explain the emergence of these distinctive strategies, Armstrong-Hough argues that physicians act not only on increasingly globalized professional standards but also on local knowledge, explanatory models, and cultural toolkits. As a result, strategies for clinical management diverge sharply from one country to another. Armstrong-Hough demonstrates how distinctive practices endure in the midst of intensifying biomedicalization, both on the part of patients and on the part of physicians, and how these differences grow from broader cultural narratives about diabetes in each setting.

About the Author

Mari Armstrong-Hough is assistant professor of public health at New York University.

For more information about Mari Armstrong-Hough, visit the Author Page.


Biomedicalization and the Practice of Culture provides a lucid, persuasive and insightful account of contemporary disease narratives and the way that ‘universal’ standards find diverse local expression. . . . [It] provides an accessible entrance into sociological investigation of medical practice and will reward its readers’ investment handsomely.”—Social History of Medicine

“The scholarship of Armstrong-Hough is carried out through a comparative perspective between diabetes “cultures” in the United States and Japan by focusing on patient experience and the social representations of diabetes among health professionals. . . . Armstrong-Hough demonstrates how diseases change in different contexts—in contradiction to the assumption that biomedicine promotes standardization.”—American Journal of Sociology

“A compelling comparison study of the illness narratives around type 2 diabetes used in Japan and the United States.”—Contemporary Sociology

“A discerning and revealing study... [Armstrong-Hough] highlights the limits of the American pattern of deflecting the responsibility for health and wellness onto the individual. The book offers a window into Japan’s health care, a system the world knows little about, but is increasingly relevant to global health.”—Japan Review

“An undeniable picture of just how drastically the understandings of a universal biomedical phenomenon can differ depending on cultural context… An ideal text with which to introduce pre-health students and healthcare professionals to cultural influences on health beliefs and practices.”—Social Science Japan

“There are few books that delve so deeply into the meanings of an illness, and almost none that provide such a penetrating comparative analysis. A significant and timely study on the global construction of an illness.” —Peter Conrad, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Brandeis University