The clinic and elsewhere: Illness, sexuality, and social experience among young African American men in Baltimore, Maryland

Todd Meyers, Lori Leonard, Jonathan Ellen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This paper is concerned with how disclosure becomes self-production for young adults within the setting of the sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinic. The STD clinic is a special medical environment where the process of disclosure is not just a way of accessing treatment; it is also a process through which illness, sexuality, and social experience become entangled in telling. Illness according to medical categories is reshaped in the social world, bringing a different set of criteria to bear on the definition of illness. The concern we raise regards how meaning is secured simultaneously through the experience of illness and social relations. Using data from a series of clinic-based ethnographic interviews, we examine the narratives of three young men. Together, the narratives demonstrate the interrelatedness of illness and self-production in various forms. In one case the tension between interpersonal violence and self-preservation is central. In another, the place of knowledge in family relationships renders the entire picture of the social unstable. The paper signals a number of issues absent in clinical and epidemiological depictions of vulnerability, particularly in the context of the urban United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-86
Number of pages20
JournalCulture, Medicine and Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2004



  • Illness
  • Production of the self
  • Social experience
  • Urban United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Anthropology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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