Non-human matter, health disparities and a thousand tiny dis/advantages

Nick J Fox, Katie Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


The materialist thread within health sociology has observed a clear gradient linking inequalities in health with measures of social class and poverty. More recently, Bourdieu’s approach to social class complemented the ‘economic capital’ of Marxist analysis with ‘symbolic’ capitals such as ‘social’ and ‘cultural’. However, efforts to assess how symbolic capital interacts with health disparities reveal complex or contradictory effects. In this paper we re-materialise the study of health and social position via a new materialist focus on the interactions between humans and non-human matter (NHM). We analyse empirical data to disclose the range of human/NHM interactions in daily life, and how these affect people’s health status. These interactions establish physical, psychological and social opportunities and constraints on what human bodies can do, contributing to relative advantages and disadvantages. We argue for a revised materialist understanding of sociomaterial position as constituted by a ‘thousand tiny dis/advantages’, and suggest that health and wellbeing are inextricably linked to dis/advantage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)779-795
Number of pages17
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number3
Early online date15 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2021


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