Cervical Screening: women's resistance to the official discourse

Armstrong, Natalie (2005) Cervical Screening: women's resistance to the official discourse. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

PDF - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (1MB) | Preview


This study is an empirical exploration of Foucault's theoretical ideas on resistance, through a case study of cervical cancer screening and women's responses to the official discourse surrounding it. In England, this form of screening is organised through a national programme and consistently achieves coverage of over 80%. Given this high attendance it may appear that any resistance is negligible. However, this thesis argues that such a focus on attendance, or behaviour, is misguided and that, by focusing attention on the level at which the official discourse on screening is interpreted, understood and made sense of by individual women, it is possible to identify instances of thought and talk based resistance.

Using qualitative interviews with a sample structured to include a range of ethnic backgrounds and ages, the thesis identifies three key forms of resistance. Firstly, women may resist the general subject position suggested within the official discourse and make sense of screening in ways that are meaningful to them as individuals. Secondly, many women resist the general 'at risk' status suggested and negotiate their own position drawing on a range of risk factors that do not always fit well with those medically recognised. Thirdly, in making sense of the information they receive, women frequently attempt to create a rational framework of knowledge and understanding which can lead to them interpreting issues such as risk factors or disease development in different ways.

Based upon these, the thesis argues for conceptualising power and resistance in terms of a complex network of possibilities with multiple points of potential difference or divergence that can lead to individuals adopting very different subject positions. Although the majority of resistance detailed is thought and talk based, this is nevertheless important as it provides the means for challenges to the official discourse and constitutes a necessary prerequisite for further behavioural resistance.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Murphy, Elizabeth
James, Veronica
Keywords: cervical cancer, screening, medical sociology, qualitative, Foucault, resistance
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA 421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Sociology and Social Policy
Item ID: 10485
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 27 Jun 2008
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2016 18:07
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/10485

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View