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


June 2017
280 pages.
from $27.95
30% off with code BTS2018

Cloth ISBN: 9781503601130
Paper ISBN: 9781503602458
Digital ISBN: 9781503602465

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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