Cover of One Blue Child by Susanna Trnka
One Blue Child
Asthma, Responsibility, and the Politics of Global Health
Susanna Trnka


280 pages.
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Hardcover now $65.00 (50% off)
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Hardcover ISBN: 9781503601130
Paperback ISBN: 9781503602458
Ebook ISBN: 9781503602465

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Excerpts and More

Radical changes in our understanding of health and healthcare are reshaping twenty-first-century personhood. In the last few years, there has been a great influx of public policy and biometric technologies targeted at engaging individuals in their own health, increasing personal responsibility, and encouraging people to "self-manage" their own care.

One Blue Child examines the emergence of self-management as a global policy standard, focusing on how healthcare is reshaping our relationships with ourselves and our bodies, our families and our doctors, companies, and the government. Comparing responses to childhood asthma in New Zealand and the Czech Republic, Susanna Trnka traces how ideas about self-management, as well as policies inculcating self-reliance and self-responsibility more broadly, are assumed, reshaped, and ignored altogether by medical professionals, asthma sufferers and parents, environmental activists, and policymakers. By studying nations that share a commitment to the ideals of neoliberalism but approach children's health according to very different cultural, political, and economic priorities, Trnka illuminates how responsibility is reformulated with sometimes surprising results.

About the author

Susanna Trnka is Associate Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Auckland. She is the author of State of Suffering: Political Violence and Community Survival in Fiji (2008) and the co-editor of Competing Responsibilities: The Politics and Social Ethics of Responsibility in Contemporary Life (2017).

"Surprising, subtle, and sophisticated, One Blue Child exemplifies ethnographic and comparative inquiry at its best. Susanna Trnka's focus on situated and strategic social action – ranging from children and parents to clinicians and activists and across sites as diverse as spas, clinics, and private homes – provides a convincing case for policy as ongoing, often contested practice."

—Don Brenneis, University of California, Santa Cruz

"One Blue Child is a fascinating ethnographic study of how physicians, patients, and families negotiate multiple meanings of and experiences with asthma. Trnka demonstrates that asthma is not a disease, but a process that is enacted across intersecting constituencies, bodies, medicines, and decisions. The book illuminates how individualized responsibility is socially and collectively contested and refashioned through science and policy, and in health care and family settings."

—Erin Koch, University of Kentucky

"In her new book, One Blue Child, anthropologist Susanna Trnka offers a portrait of asthma in the Czech Republic and New Zealand that shows how much we have been missing. To create it, she pursued the disease and the problems that accompany it through the daily lives of patients and families, their physicians, and others in these communities. Accessibly written, her story takes us back and forth between the countries, drawing out the impact of differing policies and political contexts on the management and experience of asthma....With her book, Trnka shows that until we understand more about its origins and its optimal care and treatment, we should be cautious about the flight from failing institutions to individual behavior and selfmanagement."

—David Van Sickle, American Anthropologist

"One Blue Child is straight down the line, good, solid medical anthropology. The fieldwork is well documented, discussion is empirically grounded, and analysis is informed by the best current social theories. Trnka is to be commended for writing a book that not only contributes to theory and methods in anthropology, but will also be an enlightening resource for people who have been affected by asthma and their families. Respiratory healthcare workers, clinical researchers and policy makers will also benefit greatly from reading this book. My hope is that this book will go some distance to convincing policy makers, clinical researchers, and health advocates concerned with asthma to orient their efforts towards holistic, multi-stranded approaches that will improve lung health globally."

—Paul H. Mason, Somatosphere