Hospital Land USA: Sociological Adventures in Medicalization, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Hospital Land USA

Sociological Adventures in Medicalization, 1st Edition

By Wendy Simonds


262 pages | 40 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9780415748087
pub: 2016-10-24
Hardback: 9780415748070
pub: 2016-11-01
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315796697
pub: 2016-11-03
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In Hospital Land USA, Wendy Simonds analyzes the wide-reaching powers of medicalization: the dynamic processes by which medical authorities, institutions, and ideologies impact our everyday experiences, culture, and social life. Simonds documents her own Hospital Land adventures and draws on a wide range of U.S. cultural representations — from memoirs to medical mail, from hospital signs to disaster movies — in order to urge critical thinking about conventional notions of care, health, embodiment, identity, suffering, and mortality. 

This book is intended for general readers, medical practitioners, undergraduate and graduate students in courses on medical sociology, medicine, medical ethics, nursing, public health, carework, visual culture, cultural studies, and gerontology.


Fueled in equal parts by grief and rage and infused with acerbic humor, Hospital Land USA captures the dehumanizing and disempowering effects of treatment and hospitalization. Simonds’ accessible analysis of the "ideological décor" of the contemporary American hospital will not only enrich medical sociology seminars, but also serves as a good read for anyone who has, or will, spend time in that setting: that is, pretty much all of us.

Wendy Chapkis, PhD, Professor of Sociology, University of Southern Maine, and author of Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine

Death is certain. Time of death is not. But in Hospital Land USA, the other S&M (Science and Medicine) as Wendy Simonds calls it, death is a failure, something to be suspended and avoided at whatever cost. And there is no safe word. The surreal ordinariness of it all – from appointments and forms to waiting rooms, scripts, and winning advertorials; exams and tests to bills, claims, and satisfaction surveys; sighs of good news to the emotional rollercoaster of risks, harms, hopes, and uncertainties – reduces individuals to a collection of body parts to be increasingly scrutinized and managed. The curing and caring that co-exists in this medicalized space too often fails to account for the suffering involved in caring for the sick and the old. Highly recommended.

Gayle Sulik, author of Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health

Perceptive, funny and a little grouchy, Hospital Land USA is Wendy Simonds' wise rumination on why hospitals and other health care institutions still don't 'get it.' Using her keen eye as a medical sociologist, Simonds explores hospital rituals, enforced optimism and, most importantly, the at times callous management of very ill patients, asking why we can't do a better job acknowledging the inevitability of death.

Barron H. Lerner, MD, PhD, author of The Good Doctor: A Father, A Son and the Evolution of Medical Ethics

Author Wendy Simonds encourages us to "imagine sparks of resistance" to the dominant structures and beliefs that represent medical care in the U.S., a system dominated by profit that is too often impersonal, harmful, and alienating. This is "Hospital Land", a symbol for medical care which she brings alive for us through a multiplicity of lenses, from existing research to the analysis of memoirs and medical melodramas, participant observation, instructional signage, fund-raising letters, advertisements, photographs, even the dreams and hallucinations of dying patients. Written with sharp irony and humor, Simonds transforms her own tragic encounters with Hospital Land into those sparks of insight and potential resistance.

Judith Lasker, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Lehigh University, author of Hoping to Help: The Promises and Pitfalls of Global Health Volunteering

Table of Contents

Introduction: Collaborating with the Dead

Chapter One: Chet Goes to Chemo: The Semiotics and Sadism of the Medical Industrial Complex;

Chapter Two: More Adventures in Hospital Land: An Alternative Medical History

Chapter Three: Sick Stories: Medicalized Media

Conclusion: Instead of a Happy Ending

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General