WGS Research Seminar with Samantha King

The Transnational Politics of Breast Cancer Awareness: Corporate Philanthropy as Foreign Policy


Having successfully captured U.S. public interest in breast cancer, large foundations, pharmaceutical companies, and cosmetics manufacturers have begun to pursue philanthropic activities overseas. In 2007, the Bush administration joined this effort with the launch of the US-Middle East Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness (UMEPBCA). This program was created by the State Department’s Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and brought to international attention with Laura Bush’s visit to the region in October of that year. A public-private partnership explicitly designed to complement U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, the UMEPBCA presents a rich site through which to explore connections between neoliberal health policy, feminist orientalism, and military aggression. This paper focuses, in particular, on the conjuncture of forces that has worked to produce breast cancer as a key vehicle through which contemporary imperialist ambitions are pursued.


Samantha King is an Associate Professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen’s University where she researches and teaches the cultural politics of health, sport, and the body. Her publications have appeared in venues such as Social Text, Cultural Studies~Critical Methodologies, Health Communication, and the Sociology of Sport Journal. She is currently working on a project which explores competing discourses around prescription painkillers. Her book, Pink Ribbons, Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy (Minnesota, 2006), is the subject of a forthcoming National Film Board documentary.


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