Graduation Year

2006

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Sociology

Major Professor

Jennifer Friedman, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Sara Green, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Laurel Graham, Ph.D.

Keywords

Latino Culture, Health, Cancer, Masculinity, Gender Work

Abstract

Much of the research on illness focuses on how people, particularly white men, cope with chronic/life threatening illnesses often adopting a "sick role" identity. For Latinos this type of identity transformation is complex as there is no place for dependency and passivity in traditional depictions of Latino masculinity. Latino men take pride in their manhood. As a result, they have trouble accepting their illness and the sick role. They do not tend to take their illness seriously, nor are they comfortable admitting to others the seriousness of their illness. My research focuses on how Latino men renegotiate a sense of masculinity that provides more variation in how they enact their roles as men. The four Latino men I interviewed are all battling chronic/life threatening illnesses.

The concept of gender work provides a theoretical tool for analyzing the various identity transformations experienced during a long-term chronic/life illness. Although this concept has been typically applied to women and how they reenact a vision of femininity through daily work and interaction, it becomes useful for seeing how Latino men must renegotiate their masculinity which is one of the most fundamental parts of their senses of self. They redefine even the smallest tasks, ones typically defined as female oriented as a sense of masculine pride and accomplishment. Although these men's illnesses have meant major compromises in their traditional vision of masculinity, the men with whom I spoke demonstrate the creative and social processes involved in doing gender.

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