Cover of Marked Women by Rebecca G. Martínez
Marked Women
The Cultural Politics of Cervical Cancer in Venezuela
Rebecca G. Martínez


June 2018
296 pages.
from $27.95

Cloth ISBN: 9781503605114
Paper ISBN: 9781503606432



Cervical cancer is the third leading cause of death among women in Venezuela, with poor and working-class women bearing the brunt of it. Doctors and public health officials regard promiscuity and poor hygiene—coded indicators for low class, low culture, and bad morals—as risk factors for the disease.

Drawing on in-depth fieldwork conducted in two oncology hospitals in Caracas, Marked Women is an ethnography of women's experiences with cervical cancer, the doctors and nurses who treat them, and the public health officials and administrators who set up intervention programs to combat the disease. Rebecca G. Martinez contextualizes patient-doctor interactions within a historical arc of Venezuelan nationalism, modernity, neoliberalism, and Chavismo to understand the scientific, social, and political discourses surrounding the disease. The women, marked as deviant for their sexual transgressions, are not only characterized as engaging in unhygienic, uncultured, and promiscuous behaviors, but also become embodiments of these very behaviors. Ultimately, Marked Women explores how epidemiological risk is a socially, culturally, and historically embedded process—and how this enables cervical cancer to stigmatize women as socially marginal, burdens on society, and threats to the "health" of the modern nation.

About the author

Rebecca G. Martínez is Assistant Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Missouri.

"Marked Women provides insights that only an extended ethnographic engagement can offer. Martínez captures the consistent and yet changing political landscape of poverty, class, and race that frames Venezuelan women's lives and health. A must read for anyone interested in Latin America, medical anthropology, neoliberalism, and the social determinants of health."

—Leo Chavez, author of The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants, Citizens, and the Nation