The Alchemy of Loss and Hope Fundraising as Memorialisation

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Recent expansion and developments in the bio-sciences have been accompanied by the growth of a diverse and fairly heterogeneous range of 'patient organisations', who increasingly have some sort of stake in the direction and outcome of different arenas of scientific or medical research (Epstein 1996, 2007;Brown etal. 2004). Such developments are also now reflected in the field of genetics (Rabeharisoa and Callon 1998; Rabinow 1999;Stockdale 1999). While many emphasis the novelty of these new alignments between public and science and the 'research in the wild' that this can engender (Callon and Rabeharisoa 2003) others have questioned the innovativeness of these alignments. Hess points out that there is a long history of 'generative exchange' between social movements and scientific research (2004). In fact the history of lay or patient and public involvement in science stretches from the voluntary, charitable or philanthropic health associations of the 19th century in the US and the UK, to the 'public' health campaigns against TB or the fundraising initiatives aimed at eliminating polio in the 1950s (Porter 1997), cancer at various times during the course of the mid and late 20th century (Austoker 1988) and more recently AIDS in the 1990s (Epstein 1996).

Of interest here however is the way the broad, diverse and long history associated with the 'politics of women's health' has informed and continues to influence the growth and character of a variety of different patient organisations and movements (Epstein 2007). The feminist identity politics and grass roots activism of the 1970s and 1980s brought to the fore a range of health issues relating to women including contraception, abortion and child birth. The most recent, vocal and public manifestation of women's activism around health has been in relation to breast cancer (Weisman 1998;Morgen 2002). The growth and emergence of a breast cancer lobby throughout the 1990s has been instrumental in transforming the public identity of the woman with breast cancer from 'tragic victim to heroic survivor' (Klawiter 2004). Such success nevertheless belies the fact that there are not only many different cultures of activism around this disease but also diverse experiences and perceptions of breast cancer (Myhre 2001;Blackstone 2004; Klawiter 2004;Kolker 2004).

Focusing on one particular arena and type of breast cancer activism, that closely intersects with and arises from within the long history of charitable funded cancer research in the UK, this chapter examines how a group of 'lay' persons, individually and collectively classified by themselves and others as 'fundraisers', come to identify with a breast cancer charity. Based on research undertaken with a specific group of persons involved in the charity, it examines how this form of breast cancer 'activism' is refracted through gender, the work of 'memorialistion' and the hopeful pursuit of science.

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