Cleothia Gill

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Ann Miles

Second Advisor

Dr. Bilinda Straight

Third Advisor

Dr. Robert Ulin

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


This thesis examines black women's understandings of and experiences with breast cancer through the use of narratives. These narratives offer different positions from which to critically analyze the dominate conceptualization of breast cancer in American society, which is primarily associated with white, middle class, heterosexual women. There is a focus on issues such as breast cancer 'risk', increased mortality rates among black women, dominate discourses and media representations of breast cancer, and mastectomy and body image. African American women's stories are used to 'deconstruct' and reveal how this disease is socially constructed in ways that has profound impact on their lives, particularly as it relates to issues of race, class and gender. There are not only differences in black women's lived experience of this disease, but there are also structural and institutional constraints that inhibit their ability access healthcare institutions and receive equal and quality treatment within the medical encounter. These impediments, as revealed in many narratives, are more likely to increase black women's mortality rates, as well as, significantly impact their 'risk' for developing the disease.

Included in

Anthropology Commons